Rising to the heights

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba. She tells me that she was doing an “Attila the gardener” on some Virginia Creeper when she found this nest. She quickly covered it up again.

We were subject to uncertain weather today, with brisk winds pushing clouds across the sky. The clouds broke up to give some good spells of sunshine in the morning, and we got out into the garden to get work done and flowers photographed.

The first of the overwintered dahlias has flowered, and it has come out to join the occasional calendula and our thriving roses. You can see the Wren and Special Grandma in the panel below.

If it is quantity that you like, then the Goldfinch rose and the orange hawkweed are for you . . .

. . . and though I like profusion, I like lovely single flowers lurking in the shade too.

Among the new flowers, we spotted some tiny nipplewort, and additional blooms on the delphinium. The eryngium gets more blue every day and the Rodgersia gets more extravagant.

The flower that summed a day of sunshine and showers best for me was this clematis.

We tentatively dug up one of the early potatoes, and found a good but not outstanding crop. We are perhaps a little early. All the same, when we had some for our lunch, they tasted delicious.

I took moments to check on the birds from time to time. It didn’t matter whether I looked out of the front window or the back window, there was often a blackbird to be seen.

At lunchtime, I found a chaffinch, a goldfinch and a parent and child greenfinch among the usual siskins.

After lunch, we considered our options and the weather forecast. Depending on which forecaster we looked at, it seemed that we might catch a shower or worse if we went for a cycle ride, and alternatively we might get out and back in the dry. We decided to be optimistic and set off to cycle up the hill and onto the moor on our e-bikes. (We took rain jackets just in case.)

In keeping with the variable forecasts, there were clouds and sunshine when we looked up the Ewes Valley while we pedalled up to the White Yett.

When we got to the moor, the Little Tarras valley was looking at its best . . .

. . . so we decided to cycle on down into the big Tarras Valley, and then up the other side until we got to the county boundary, six miles from home and 1100 feet above sea level.

We kept an eye out for raptors, and caught distant glimpses of action . . .

. . .and Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a goat watching us.

There were plenty of wild flowers beside the road to see, and we were very impressed by the number of orchids that we passed, though they all seemed to be of the same variety, probably marsh orchids we think.

There was a lot of wild mountain thyme beside the road too, with a little self heal, and some of those yellow flowers which are not dandelions.

The most conspicuous flowers were great swathes of bedstraw but I totally failed to take a picture of any of them.

We got to the county boundary but didn’t linger, because when we looked past Tinnis Hill, we could see a big rain shower looming up.

We took a moment to enjoy the expansive views across to the Lake District hills . . .

. . . and the mouth of the Solway Firth . . .

. . . and then headed for home.

We passed a different goat keeping a watch on passers by . . .

. . . and got peppered by a few threatening raindrops, which fortunately didn’t come to anything.

We flew down the hill to the bridge across the Tarras Water . . .

. . . and thanks to electrical assistance, we made very good speed going up the other side to the White Yett. We were a bit alarmed by a potential rain shower as we neared the top of the hill . . .

. . . but it was further away than it looked, and we got home unscathed after 12 miles of distance and 1400 feet of climbing. If we hadn’t got the electric bikes, we could have gone in the car. It would have been a lot less satisfying, and we wouldn’t have seen nearly so much on our way.

It did rain, but only after we were safely inside.

I made some macaroni cheese for our evening meal, and that rounded off a day which was better than we had expected.

The adult greenfinch is the flying bird of the day.

Stretching legs and fingers

Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s Highland holiday. He has had some fine weather up there.

I had quite a full day here today, though I allowed myself a gentle start. It was warm and cloudy when Dropscone came round for coffee (and scones) and Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have her monthly coffee get together with her ex work colleagues.

Dropscone was telling me about his holiday in Devon and how steep the hills were there. He is going to play in the Langholm Open Golf Competition tomorrow, so I wish him luck.

After he left, I did a bit of business relating to the Archive Group’s move to new premises. Our treasury Nancy is doing all the serious organising, but I needed to get some paperwork done and delivered. When I had done that, a walk round the garden was called for. I often concentrate on individual flowers so I thought that I would try to take the bigger picture today . . .

. . . but old habits die hard, and I welcomed some new blooms (and another Lilian Austin needless to say).

When Mrs Tootlepedal returned, I planted some wild flower plugs into the mini meadow of yellow rattle on the drying green. The last flowers Mrs Tootlepedal planted there were all eaten by slugs in one day, so we are hoping for better luck this time.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her regular stitching group, and after considering a cycle ride but not going anywhere, I finally went for a walk. I am going for another longish walk with Mark soon, and as I have done very little walking this month, I thought that I should get a bit of practice in.

It was still cloudy, but it was warm and calm, not a bad day for a walk.

I started off by going to the Kilngreen for an ice cream and some gentle bird watching.

Then I walked along to Whitshiels, and took the road up the hill. It was lined with wild flowers.

The stitchwort in the bottom right frame is absolutely tiny, no bigger than half my little finger nail, but it is very pretty. I think that the bee on the vetchling is a carder bee.

I left the road and walked along the hillside to Whita Well, and then I took the quarry track to the stile over the wall. There are sheep on the hill, so there are not so many wild flowers to see, but I saw a few thistles, bedstraw and tormentil sprinkled across the ground like gold and silver dust, one patch of what I think is thyme, and quite a few foxgloves among the bracken.

The insistent call of a couple of birds had me looking round, and in the end, I spotted one of them hopping from that top of one bunch of bracken to another. It didn’t stop long enough for a good picture, but I can see that it was a stonechat.

It had an enormous amount of fun, calling loudly just in front of me, and skipping on every time that I stopped.

I gave up on bird photography and took some landscapes instead. It was a dull day for taking good photos but at least the land stands still.

I could see the felled wood from which the timber is being moved . . .

. . . and the golf course, looking very neat ahead of the big competition tomorrow . . .

. . . and the town, lying snugly beneath the hills.

I was observed as I approached the stile.

I crossed the stile and walked down the hill towards the oak woods. The bedstraw was running riot here in any open patches on the hillside . . .

. . . but there was a complete contrast when I came across the timber track that we had tried to cycle along yesterday.

It is a scar at the moment, but I hope and expect that it will heal remarkably quickly when the timber work is finished.

Small butterflies flitted about in front of me as I walked down the hill, but they were very hard to see once they had settled among the bracken and long grass. Finally, a larger one obligingly came to rest in plain view, and kept its wings open. It turned out to be a ringlet butterfly.

When I got down to the track through the woods, I found that I had time and energy to spare, so I turned left and came back to the town by way of Jenny Noble’s birch wood . . .

. . . the Longwood park . . .

. . . and the road to Skippers Bridge.

A reflective branch in the river showed me the direction that I should go to get home.

I walked back along the riverside path, passing some very unwelcome giant hogweed, as well as melancholy thistle, willowherb and any amount of grass.

As I may have mentioned many times, the river is very low and I could hardly see the Wauchope coming out under the Kirk Brig.

Goldfinches were watching and waiting in the garden when I got home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone on from her stitching to help lay out 30 dinner settings for people who were coming for pre show meals at the Buccleuch Centre before a concert tonight, so we were both ready for a cup of tea and a piece of ginger cake when she arrived home.

After our regular Zoom with my brother and sisters and a second helping of the slow cooked lamb stew, we were visited by Mike and Alison. While Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted, Alison and I flexed our fingers for the first time for several weeks and played some recorder and keyboard sonatas. We were keen but a bit rusty.

I didn’t have much time to watch the feeder today so the flying bird of the day is a panel of flying siskins being shouted at.

Mirror, mirror

Today’s guest picture comes from my Manitoba correspondent Mary Jo. It is an orchid cactus. Mary Jo tells me that it over winters in her basement storage room and gets no attention. It does well, all the same.

We had another very good summer day here today, with temperatures rising to 25°C (77°F) in the afternoon, but not staying there long enough to be oppressive. The day got sunnier as it went along, and it ended with a good sunset.

I filled the feeder after breakfast, and then checked on the birds later to find that siskins were keeping busy.

Neither of us had slept very well, so we had a quiet morning until we were revived by morning coffee. Our neighbour Margaret has got Covid, so we had coffee by ourselves. She is being well looked after by her family, and is not very poorly at all.

I went for a garden wander before coffee. It was hard to avoid the peonies.

And the Queen of Denmark is thriving too.

In terms of novelty, we are definitely getting excited by the prospects of digging potatoes and picking blackcurrants, while feverfew and the little red rose have added to the colour in the garden.

The first proper flower on the delphiniums has opened . . .

. . . and the astrantias are still attracting customers. It was a marmalade hoverfly today.

A blackbird kept an eye on my goings on . . .

I compared our two yellow irises, Butter and Cream and Apollo . . .

. . . and decided that I liked them both equally.

I shot a mixed bunch of sitting flowers . . .

. . . and went in for a sit down and some strong coffee and ginger cake.

The siskins had given way to a greenfinch and a goldfinch.

After coffee, I went to the corner shop to buy milk and then mowed the front lawn. Mrs Tootlepedal picked sweet peas, watered the vegetables, weeded, tidied up and probably did half a dozen other things which I didn’t notice.

We are getting a good supply of lettuces from the vegetable garden to have with our lunch, and I had some today in a pate and tomato sandwich of considerable size.

After lunch, I noticed a fleeting butterfly and went out to see if I could metaphorically pin it down. I caught up with it in the end, but it was most unwilling to open its wings for me. Here are some rather subdued studies of a painted lady keeping itself to itself as it flitted from Sweet William to Sweet William.

In the end, I ran out of patience and went off for a bicycle ride. Mrs Tootlepedal was impressed by the new mirror which I had fitted to my e-bike, so I decided to bicycle down to the bike shop in Longtown and buy one for her. I went on my e-bike, and packed my heavy camera and macro lens in the back bag in the hope of getting better pictures of orchids than I managed yesterday.

When I got home, I checked and found to my chagrin that I had taken even worse pictures of the orchids today. I had got better pictures of meadow vetchling and vetch though, so that was a small consolation.

I went by a roundabout route, avoiding the main road and stopped once again to enjoy the peaceful Liddel Water . . .

. . . and the handsome bridge over it which spans the border with England.

I stopped by the River Esk when I got to Longtown, and saw Mr Grumpy’s English cousin contemplating, life, the universe and everything while standing on one leg on a rock in the middle of the river.

The bike shop . . .

. . . had a mirror in stock and were happy to sell it to me.

I then took a ‘back roads’ route home, using quite a bit of electrical help to get me up the hills on the way. I rattled along at a good speed, but this didn’t prevent me from taking a few pictures as I went along.

The fields that have been cut for silage are greening up again, and there was plenty of uncut grass in a cattle field. I stopped at the Kerr Wood to check on the Scots pine that I had noticed beside the road on previous trips. It is growing well.

I looked round after I had taken the pictures of the pine, and saw that there was a good selection of grasses growing at my feet (as well as some ‘cuckoo spit’ on a yellow rattle).

I had made a slow cooked lamb stew in the morning, and it was almost ready to eat when I got home after my thirty mile round trip. Mrs Tootlepedal cooked potatoes and peas to go with it, while we fitted the new mirror to her bike.

During the day, Mike Tinker had dropped in to say that he and Gavin had been walking along the new track to Broomholmshiels created to get the felled timber out of the wood that had been extensively damaged by Storm Arwen. They had come across a stranded barn owl chick on their walk, and restored it to as near to its nest as possible. Mrs Tootlepedal thought that it would be good to try to cycle along this track (and perhaps meet a barn owl too).

There was an enormous pile of timber already brought out of the wood lying in a heap at Broomholmshiels . . .

. . . but sadly no barn owls in sight.

We headed towards the new track, and found a huge machine bringing yet more logs out of the wood. We waited until it had passed, and tried to cycle up the track. It may have been fine for walking and huge machines, but it was too steep and too rough for us to cycle up. It doesn’t look too severe from the bottom . . .

. . . but appearances are deceptive. We gave up the attempt, and settled for cycling home along the well worn track through the Longwood.

This was an unalloyed pleasure in the warm evening sunshine.

If you would like to see the full story of their walk along the track, and Mike and Gavin’s adventures with the barn owl, visit Gavin’s blog. It has got some excellent pictures of the owl.

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

Staying close to home today

Today’s guest picture comes from my walking friend Mark. His dog Henry took him to the top of Skiddaw in the Lake District earlier this week.

I was pleased to find that I was in more or less full working order when I got up today. This is a tribute to the fine qualities of my Van Nicholas touring bike. It is a pleasure to ride. All the same, I was quite happy to have a quiet morning doing nothing more energetic after breakfast than wandering around the garden, and then having coffee (and a custard doughnut) with Mrs Tootlepedal.

I took my camera out into the garden after coffee, but organised a little watering in the vegetable garden, before I pointed it at the sole water lily in the pond.

They may not be everyone’s favourite insect, but I love the shine on a greenbottle. At the moment, there always seems to be one on an astrantia if I look.

There are big and little campanulas about, a new clematis has appeared on the fence, and the Rosaraie l’Hay is producing new flowers every day.

I made a start on thinning out some of the apples.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to visit the garden centre at Longtown, and while she was away, I did some shopping, and then and I mowed the middle lawn before going in for lunch. I had a look out at the birds on the feeder while I was indoors. Siskins were busy eating the seeds, and I had to refill the feeder later in the day as the bottom right picture in the panel shows.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I got our electric bikes out. At her suggestion, we pedalled down the back road towards Canonbie. Just after Claygate, we turned down the Fairy Loup track through the Byreburn wood, and at the bottom, we went along to the Hollows on the old road before using full power to swoop back up the hill to Claygate again. We returned to Langholm by the way we had come.
The verges were full of wild flowers, and if we had stopped to take good pictures of them all, we still wouldn’t be home yet.

We kept an eye out for Ragged Robin, because when you see Ragged Robin, you often see orchids too. We saw Ragged Robin, and hey presto, we saw an orchid too. I think it is a common spotted orchid as it had a spotted leaf which you can see in the picture.

In fact, in the course of our ride, we saw lots of orchids.

We saw that yellow flower again, which I think may be hawk’s beard and not English hawkweed, along with meadow vetchling, any amount of lovely dog roses and lots and lots of clover.

And along the Fairly Loup track, we found ribwort and hedge woundwort. If you look closely, you can see that the hedge woundwort has got an interesting visitor.

When I looked at a geranium, I saw that it too had a visitor, but you have to look even harder to see it. Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to a guelder rose on the other side of the track.

There was a mass of grasses in the verges, but Mrs Tootlepedal spotted this sedge by way of variety. I might easily have thought that it was just another grass.

We stopped as we went up the hill to Gilnockie Station when Mrs Tootlepedal spotted an interesting flower in a wood beside the road. It was a yellow pimpernel or Lysimachia nemorum. At the top of the hill, we found a crop of yellow irises.

It was a very hilly eleven mile ride, but the electric bikes helped us to enjoy going up the hills as much as we enjoyed floating down them.

When we got home, I got out the hover mower, and mowed the green house grass and the vegetable garden paths. I nearly mowed the front lawn too, but luckily I ran out of time and joined the regular family Zoom instead. I might have had time to mow the lawn if I hadn’t been distracted by the fuchsia at the back gate . . .

. . . and a bee on another astrantia . . .

. . . and if I hadn’t wasted time looking at the birds again, where I found a goldfinch making itself scarce in the face of an oncoming siskin.

I took too many pictures as usual so I have had to pair a rose taken in the morning with potentilla flowers taken in the late afternoon.

There are so many of them dotted round the garden, that I sometimes overlook the Sweet Williams when it comes to taking pictures. I shouldn’t, as they are very striking and colourful.

I had a final look at a greenfinch on the feeder . . .

. . . before Zooming.

It was cloudy today, but it didn’t rain, and as the temperature got above 20°C (70°F) in the afternoon, it was a good day. It might get a little too hot tomorrow, if the forecast is correct, but as it is going to get cooler again after that, we won’t complain.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, arriving before I had refilled the feeder.

The longest day

Today’s guest picture shows that Tony’s dogs are enjoying their Highland holiday too.

Since today was the longest day of the year, I thought it appropriate to try to achieve the longest bike ride of the year while I had plenty of daylight. The forecast was for a warm, cloudy day with a light wind. This sounded perfect. I got up a bit earlier than usual and ate a hearty breakfast. However, my enthusiasm for cycling was slightly dampened, when Mrs Tootlepedal put her nose outside the door and announced that it was raining.

Fortunately this turned out to be only a momentary aberration, and I set off at half past eight, intending to go to Dumfries and back, taking an indirect route.

As a plan, it went pretty well, though it did mean cycling for several hours into the light wind. However, I took things very gently and survived. I stopped frequently for a stretch, a snack and a drink . . . and to take pictures.

Wild flowers were abundant and I was spoiled for dog roses in the hedges. I took these four pictures, including ragged robin and loosestrife before I got to Annan.

After passing through Annan, I took a picture of a railway bridge over the line to Dumfries. This was to mark the fact that the one thing that I was unlikely to see today was a train of any sort.

As always seems to be the case, when I arrived at Powfoot, the tide was out. It was pretty gloomy, but a couple were having fun of a sort on the muddy shore.

I cycled through the caravan site and along the narrow lanes across the marsh. Once again, there were many roses to brighten a dull day.

I sat on a handy bench outside the Savings Museum in Ruthwell and ate a sandwich, before heading on along the Solway Coast to Bankend, a totally flat section of road.

At Bankend, I stood on the bridge and admired the romantic ruin of the Isle Tower . . .

. . . and a rich display of lichen on the bridge parapet.

When I joined the road from Dumfries to Caerlaverock at Bankend, I found a big notice telling me that the road would be closed this Thursday for the British Road Cycling Championships. I felt quite superior cycling along a championship course. My pride took a knock when I was passed by a fellow practising for the event. He was a serious cyclist, wearing an aerodynamic helmet and with a solid time trial wheel. He went past me like a rocket. I met a few more of these human rockets and I was very impressed to see that the ones coming towards me as I made my way back, were not too high and mighty to give an old codger a cheery wave as they flew by.

On my way to Dumfries, I passed a cow and castle at Caerlaverock . . .

. . . more cattle grazing on the marsh beside the Nith estuary . . .

. . . and Criffel under a cloud.

I made my last stop before Dumfries at Glencaple. The tide was still out and the view up the river was not very exciting, and there was only a lone oystercatcher to be seen by way of birdlife.

When I got to Kingholm Quay at Dumfries, I took the excellent bike path along the river, part of national Route 7 into the centre of town. It had a characteristic signpost.

I had hoped to use the many cycle paths in the town to extend my distance to 50 miles, but the path in the town was narrow and shared with pram pushers, dog walkers, hand holding couples and idiots wearing noise cancelling headphones. This was not productive so I took a picture of a disgruntled heron who had just been dive bombed by gulls . . .

. . . and the caul and bridge at the Sands . . .

. . . and turned back. Perhaps if I had gone over this smart new bridge before the town centre, I would have found better cycling.

I cycled back to Kingholm Quay and looked down the river. The view here was better than the one at Glencaple. Criffel had lost its cloud.

I pedalled back down the Nith Estuary, stopping for a snack and a look round at a nature reserve . . .

. . . and then stopped again a few miles further on, when I made a diversion to have a cup of coffee and a slice of very tasty cake at the WWT cafe on the reserve at Caerlaverock. This added a welcome three miles to my total, but did not make up for the deficit which I had acquired in Dumfries.

I pottered along the coast roads to Annan and Gretna, given help by the now friendly wind, and stopped to note how the low the Kirtle Water was. That gravel bank which should have been flooded many times, is now thoroughly covered with vegetation.

I made another little diversion from my intended route by going up to Gretna Green and Corries Mill before joining the A7 just north of Longtown. I turned off the main road to go through Canonbie and the Hollows on the old main road, stopping for a tractor throwing up a fountain of mowed grass behind it . . .

. . . and honeysuckle in a hedge, orange hawkweed at the Hollows bus shelter, daisies at the Hagg and grass near Old Irvine.

When I got back to Langholm, I found that I was a mile short of my target, so I had to cycle up to the High Mill Brig and back to bring my total for the day up to the magic 100 mile mark. I had hoped to do the ride in eight hours of cycling and ten hours of elapsed time. I managed to get in five minutes before the ten hours were up, but I missed the cycling time target by an annoying ten minutes. I blame the dog walkers and pedestrians of Dumfries for that, or possibly old age.

The ride was very satisfactory though. The adjustment I had made to my saddle yesterday proved to have been well judged, and I was as comfortable as one can be after eight hours in the saddle.

I had enough energy left for a quick stroll round the garden to see what caught my eye. There were plenty of eye catchers about.

Thinking that I might need some encouragement during my ride, Mrs Tootlepedal had sent me a text message telling me that there would be mince and tatties for tea. This had motivated me a lot. The mince and tatties duly appeared and went down very well.

While I was out, Dropscone had appeared bearing gifts. He had been to a supermarket and five custard doughnuts for 10p had proved an irresistible bargain. I had one for my pudding. It was delicious.

I didn’t fill the feeder today or look at the birds, with the result that apart from the grumpy heron in Dumfries, I only took one bird picture and it is the flying bird of the day.

Those interested can click on the map below for details of the trip. You can see that it was mostly very flat.

Leg test

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. He is on holiday in the north of Scotland and came across this interesting object on the beach.

We had a perfect summer day here today, genuinely warm but not too hot, and with a gentle cooling breeze. We were expecting a visit for coffee from an old friend, Rachel, who had lived in our house until she was ten years old, so there was quite a bit of tidying up done after breakfast. In the event, when she arrived with her husband, Gary, it was such a nice day that we had coffee in the garden, and the house remained unvisited. We weren’t complaining though, as we had the double benefit of very good company for coffee and a garden tour, and a very tidy house to go back into when they left.

Then we got busy in the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal worked hard and I wandered about photographing the results of her hard work. Rachel had admired this ornamental clover.

We had talked about how few insects there were about in general this year, but as the morning warmed up, a number of insects appeared.

The astrantias were particularly popular

I was pleased to find self heal growing freely in the ‘wild lawn’ . . .

. . . and nearby, tropaeolum was bursting out all over.

The roses are loving the weather this year (and the good feeding that Mrs Tootlepedal has been giving them). It is hard to go past them without taking yet another picture.

. . . but there are new flowers too, a clematis . . .

. . .and the first of many calendulas and some loosestrife.

Then there are new flowers just waiting to take the stage . . .

. . . and old flowers taking their final curtain.

This foxglove reflected the warmth of the day.

I like the way that geraniums are growing among the orange hawkweed . . .

. . . and there were lots of other bursts of colour that my camera snapped up as I went past.

Sometimes a flower appears in the garden by some magic process unknown to the gardener. Today we got a real surprise when we saw what we first thought was a ‘butter and cream’ iris, but which turned out to be something else and quite beautiful.

It appears to be an ‘iris x hollandica Apollo’, and how it got into the garden is a mystery. I hope it learns to like it here.

I needed a sit down after a surprise like that, so I went in for lunch . . . and a quick look at the birds who were grateful that the traffic of people in the garden had quietened down at last.

After lunch, I thought that I ought to try out my push bike after a couple of windy electrical outings, so I pumped up my tyres and set off round my familiar Canonbie route. It was a good day for cycling . . .

. . . and the roads were lined with wild flowers (where the over enthusiastic verge mowers hadn’t cut them all down).

There was still a bit of a breeze blowing, and I had to work hard against the wind to get down to the bottom of the bypass. Curious cattle checked on my progress.

I stopped at the top of the last hill before dropping down to the river to appreciate the water dropwort on both sides of the road, and to take a picture with my camera as a contrast to my effort on the phone on a recent ride.

With the wind now behind me, I did the second ten miles back up to Langholm quite a bit more briskly than I had done the first ten miles. I was concentrating so hard on keeping my speed up, that I forgot to stop for any more pictures. It turns out that the e-biking is helping my normal road biking fitness as my legs felt very good today. I am probably pedalling the e-bike at a faster cadence than I use on my road bike, and this can only be a good thing.

Mike Tinker dropped in to have a cup of tea when I got back. He had been watering Mrs Tootlepedal’s plants in the cold frame while we were away, and he had done a good job keeping them healthy.

I thought that I saw a butterfly in the garden while we were talking, and I rushed out, but it had disappeared (if it had been there at all), and only two squabbling blackbirds were to be seen.

When Mike had left, I slightly altered the pitch of my saddle on the road bike, and then I had time for a shower before the regular Zoom with my brother and sisters.

It is the summer solstice, the longest day, tomorrow. It has rather crept up on us this year because it has been so cool for the most part, and it has not felt very summery at all. It is sobering to think that the days are going to get shorter from now on.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, with landing gear in place.

Goodbye, hello

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He was on a father’s day walk with his boys today when he met these two interesting customers.

We had a fine summer day here, with plenty of sun, warm temperatures and not too much wind. It is a pity that almost perfect cycling days often seem to coincide with choir days, but that is life. You can’t have everything.

After breakfast, I filled the feeder and watched the birds for a moment. Goldfinches caught my eye.

We cycled to church to find that the repaired organ has still not been replaced in the church. The service was unusual in that it included the Sunday Club prize giving and an adult baptism but the hymns were unremarkable.

We had coffee when we got home, and then we went out into the garden. It is getting richer out there every day.

There were some bees and flies to be seen . . .

. . . but not many.

A Burnet rose and the first Wren have joined the Goldfinch and Frau Dagmar Hastrup. . .

. . . but the current star of the rose show is the rosa complicata at the back of the garden. It is a riot.

New arrivals include a fine clematis . . .

. . . and two yellow irises. The one on the left is ‘Butter and Cream’ and the one on the right is a Japanese variety. Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased with it, because it hadn’t ever flowered until she moved it this year.

After lunch, I went for a quick three bridges walk before the afternoon trip to Carlisle. I saw some interesting birds on the Wauchope as I walked down, but as I had inadvertently still got my camera on sunny plant close up settings from the morning, I didn’t manage to get any good pictures of them. This was a pity, because you don’t often get the chance to take pictures of swallows gathering mud at the waterside.

Parent and child pictures of oystercatchers beside the Esk were more successful.

I was expecting to see a packed car park at the Kilngreen on such a fine Sunday, but maybe the price of fuel was to blame for a rather subdued turnout. Things were peaceful . . .

. . . though there were a few birds about.

I bought an ice cream from the van, and then took the new path round the Castleholm, looking around as I went along.

I know what this plant is but I can’t remember its name.

The noble fir had a cone in hand.

I wondered what this plant was . . .

. . .and I know that this one is hedge woundwort.

Trees were worth a look too, I thought.

Having sorted my camera settings out, I went back to the Wauchope on my way home to see if the swallows were still collecting mud. They had gone, and were flying high above the roof tops.

Having said a fond farewell to our conductor Ellen last week at the Carlisle Community Choir, it came as a bit of a surprise when she turned up to take today’s session. We were very pleased to see her, and she was in good form. She will take the final session for this term next week, and then we will say goodbye again.

We did consider a cycle ride in the evening when we got home, but it has been a busy week so we let the opportunity slip quietly by, and sat down to our evening meal instead.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Back in the groove again

Today’s guest picture(s) come from Dropscone’s holiday in Devon. He took a trip on the Babbacombe cliff railway.

We had a very familiar sort of day here now that we are back home. We rose rather late to let us recover from the journey yesterday, and then we had coffee with our neighbour Margaret. It took us two minutes to catch up with all the news from while we have been away as it seems to have been a quiet time.

After coffee, we got busy in the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal had plants to plant out in the flower garden, as well as weeding and general tidying up to do. I did some watering in the vegetable garden, some dead heading and some mowing. I thinned about 100 small plums off the plum tree which had several branches in danger of breaking if all the fruit was left on. As it was a very pleasant day, I took a picture or two in between times.

I was spoiled for choice among the roses.

There is a lot of good colour around at the moment.

Geranium:

Lamium:

Potentialla:

Peony:

Although it is not the most colourful flower, I love the stachys.

I put some of the other flowers that caught my eye into a panel. We still don’t have nearly as many bees as we should have. I was excited to see a tinge of blue on the eryngium. Peonies have an interesting interior life, and we hope for a good crop of berries on the thornless bramble on the fence.

The garden is generally quite a bit ‘wilder’ than it used to be.

Genuine cyclists know that the optimum number of bicycles to own is N + 1 where N is the number of bikes that you already own. As far as dead heading goes, the number of flowers needing dead heading is N + 3 where N equals the number that you have just dead headed and 3 is the number that you see still needing dead heading when you look again a few minutes later. The + 3 is a constant because however many more more you go back and dead head, there are always three more left undone.

Leaving three poppies to be dead headed, we went in for lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went back out onto the garden to start work again. I followed on and took a few pictures of birds at the feeder from in the garden and not though the window as usual. In spite of Mrs Tootlepedal working close by, the feeder was busy.

I felt a bit tired, so leaving Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work, I went in for a sit down in front of the telly for a while. I rested so well that I felt ready to go out for a cycle ride by four o’clock. It was generally windy with some even brisker gusts, so I pocketed my pride and went out on my electric bike. It makes pedalling in brisk winds a much more enjoyable experience than having to battle with the breeze on my push bike.

Having chosen my electric bike, I thought I ought to make good use of it, so I went on a thirty mile loop with a lot of uphill work in it. (2500 feet of it, according to Strava.)

I went over Callister, through Waterbeck to Middlebie against the wind, stopping to take a picture of a cool calf at Hottsbridge on my way.

At Middlebie, I turned right and headed up to Bankshill along a single track road with good hedges . . .

. . . which did an excellent job of giving me shelter from the strong crosswind. I stopped to note the wild flowers in the unmown verges . . .

. . . a small reservoir on one side of the road . . .

. . . and on the other side, the hill at Burnswark which is the site of a bronze age burial cairn, an iron age fort and a Roman camp.

(Geologically interested readers will have seen at once that it provides succinct and prominent geological evidence of the interruption of sediment deposition by lava eruption followed by basalt flows, according to Wikipedia)

I couldn’t miss the turbines at Minsca windfarm, one of the earliest windfarms in our area.

It is quite a long hill up from Middlebie but the reward for the climb is an outstanding view from the top.

At Bankshill, I joined the Lockerbie – Langholm road and was able to pedal happily home with the strong wind now behind me. When I looked, I could see wind turbines at Crossdykes, Ewe Hill and Minsca busy turning that wind into electricity.

My route home took me past Paddockhole Bridge, and I took a picture of the bridge from the ‘wrong’ side as I almost always approach it from the other direction.

After battling hills and wind for the first fifteen miles, which took me an hour and twenty minutes, I whisked home with the wind behind me, floating electrically assisted over a couple of steep climbs on the way, covering the 15 miles back in 55 minutes. I saw four cars in the whole 30 miles.

I had time for a last walk round when I got home. I went to the back of the house to admire our neighbour Kenny’s lovely lupins on the bank of the dam . . .

. . . took another picture of one of the blue irises . . .

. . . contrasted the mown lawn with the no-mow section . . .

. . . and went back in to sit down to a delicious meal of fish pie which Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared while I was out cycling.

I didn’t spend any time today looking for flying birds out of the window, but I did see a jackdaw and a gull flying over our garden in contrasting styles, so there are joint flying birds of the day today.

Phew

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She popped down to the canal for a walk this morning and got home before the temperature in London hit 33°C (91°F) later in the day.

I did some watering in Annie’s garden this morning and took a picture of a rose.

It was hot in the garden but not ridiculously hot, and Mrs Tootlepedal and I sat in the shade for a while. We had a lovely time on our visit, and we were sad to leave Annie and Evie, but we weren’t very unhappy about the chance to leave the heat behind.

We had to travel home at the hottest part of the day, but luckily we didn’t have to walk very far in the sun, and the train back to Carlisle was cool when we boarded it. It got quite warm as we headed north, but then we passed through a weather front on our way, and when we got off at Carlisle, not only was it a lot cooler, but it was also raining. We didn’t mind that at all.

Through a triumph of scheduling, the bus to Langholm left Carlisle three minutes before our train got in, so we had to kill an hour and quarter waiting for the next bus. We managed that with the aid of a nearby cafe, and found that the rain had stopped by the time that we got home. It was good to see a familiar sight.

The sun came out to welcome us back to the house, and it was lovely to walk round the garden in sunlit 15° temperatures. The volunteer poppies in the greenhouse had increased in our absence.

And the lupins had survived better than I had expected.

I took a a few ‘welcome home’ pictures of roses . . .

. . . and peonies.

It was easy to see that it had been raining just before we had got home . . .

. . . but the garden looked very fresh as a result.

The clematis over the garage door is almost over, but fortunately, the climbing hydrangea has burst into life to fill the gap.

I like the complexity of its flower arrangements.

It was good to be home again, and I hope to get back to regular blog posting and reading tomorrow. There may even be a flying bird of the day. There is a peony of the day today.

Great relations

The chief business of the day was a visit by Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and his wife for lunch.

The lunch went well and Evie enjoyed meeting her great aunt and great uncle.

The day was too hot for anything energetic so after the visitors left, we took the rest of the day very gently.

Not even the shady garden could tempt us to do anything useful.

We go home tomorrow on the hottest day of the year so far. We hope that the air conditioning on the train is working.