Round and round and up and down

Today we do not have a guest picture of the day but a whole gallery of guest pictures from a guest photographer instead. Matilda borrowed my camera and took a few shots of flowers that took her fancy. I have cropped one or two of her shots but otherwise this is just how she took them. She was particularly pleased by the butterfly.

Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda were up early and played Ludo and made a birthday card for Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother (105 this month!), and a thank you card for my stepmother (who had sent Matilda a very good book).

After breakfast Matilda and I went out into the garden where we dug up quite a lot of potatoes and laid them out to dry. This is just part of our haul coming from two plants.

I took a few pictures of my own as I wandered round enjoying the wealth of colour in the flower beds while the cards were being finished off.

I have added one taken from an upstairs window to this gallery as Matilda liked the phlox a lot and it shows them off well.

Mrs Tootlepedal was given a helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ which grew to be much taller than she expected so she has had to transplant it. It has been so dry that she worried about its future, but it seems to have settled down and it definitely has one flower on it.

When they had been finished, I took the cards round to the post box and then accompanied Matilda, who was on her bicycle, to the park. Matilda zoomed round the paths and swept over the grass with great confidence.

Did I mention that it was a perfect morning for pedalling in the park?

We dug more potatoes when we got back and I looked around for more flowers. A St John’s Wort near the potatoes caught my eye.

I had filled the feeder so I kept an eye on the birds too. Two sparrows met on the feeder pole . . .

. . . and then dived down to the feeder to join a siskin.

In the afternoon, when Matilda’s father had finished working, we drove up to the White Yett and went for a walk. Matilda, Mrs Tootlepedal and I headed up the hill to the monument, while Matilda’s parents took a walk along the road to look at the moor.

I took a few pictures as we went up. The weather was still perfect, with a cooling breeze and clear condition. We enjoyed the purple heather and picking the very soft seeds from prickly thistles and letting them blow off in the wind.

We met our friend Nancy with two of her grandchildren at the top of the hill. They had walked all the way up from the town.

A busy day was rounded off by an excellent meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal, and we are looking forward to some more fine weather tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Footnote: While our visitors are here, I am going to try to keep my posts brief, and I may not have time to read other posts as I usually do. It seems only polite to talk to family when they come to visit.


Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who found himself inside a kiln on a visit to a pottery museum.

After a couple of days of exciting excursions, I got no further from home than the parish church today. We cycled along to sing in the choir after breakfast with no hint of what the hymns for the day might be in advance. The choir only numbered five and we did our best to sing some unfamiliar hymns at sight.

We were in need of a good cup of coffee when we got home.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal got to work indoors on preparation for impending visitors, and I did some tidying up in the garden, including dead heading, more pond clearing, and mowing the drying green, the greenhouse grass and the vegetable garden paths. I couldn’t help noticing that we had a lot of bees about again today with dahlias particular favourites . . .

. . . though other flowers got visitors too, and from different insects.

There are still no coloured butterflies in the garden, but I spotted two cabbage whites visiting the inulas . . .

. . . and I was pleased that two of them settled on neighbouring flowers at the same moment.

At lunchtime, I took a moment to watch the birds and found a goldfinch on the feeder.

There is evidence of more families of sparrows about in the garden, and the goldfinch soon found itself outnumbered.

There are still lots of blackbirds too, and as I spent a lot of the day in the garden, I met quite a few of them.

In the afternoon, I gave two of the espalier apples a bit of a prune to keep them under control. For once, I remembered to take a picture to show work in progress and work completed.

The prunings were cleared, shredded and added to compost bin A, which is getting rapidly filled up again after its recent emptying out.

Every now and again, I took a break from my tasks and looked at flowers. We have got a lovely dahlia with dark flowers. Unfortunately it grows in such a way as to keep its flowers hidden from the enquiring gaze as much as possible.

Other flowers are less shy.

Our human visitors arrived bang on schedule. Our granddaughter Matilda jhad kindly brought her parents down from Edinburgh to stay with us.

While the grown ups considered food and meals indoors, Matilda cycled round the garden under my watchful eye, getting the hang of the little bicycle which we keep in the garage for her. Today, the garden, tomorrow, the world . . . or at least the park.

Following a suggestion from our Matilda’s father Alistair, Mrs Tootlepedal roasted kohlrabi and courgettes from the garden along with tomatoes and onions from the shop to make a delicious accompaniment for pasta for our evening meal. As she had also made a chocolate cake for afters, we dined like royalty.

Matilda and her parents are with us for two weeks, so we have plenty of fun in store.

The flying bird of the day is one of the sparrow family . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is a new begonia.

A feast of nature

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She found a lovely wild flower meadow on her recent visit to The Newt with my sister Mary.

For reasons not unconnected with staying up late to watch the very exciting mixed triathlon relay at the Olympic games, I was quite tired this morning, and did little of note beyond some dead heading in the garden and having coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret.

I noticed so many bees about while I was dead heading that I took my bee camera out and shot as many as I could.

Snapdragons were a popular bee destination . . .

. . . and dahlias and the buddleia were a draw as well . . .

. . . though I did find one dahlia without a bee on it.

I got really close to a bee on a stachys . . .

. . . twice.

I took my little camera out too to record some colour on a grey day, and managed to find yet another bee on a dahlia along with a disgruntled blackbird which I had disturbed while it was having a bath in the pond.

I was looking at the pond to see if there were any water lilies about.

We have visitors coming tomorrow so there was some preparation to do for that too, but generally, it was a quiet morning.

After lunch, I checked on the birds, and was pleased to see a blue tit at the feeder . . .

. . . and then we went for an outing to the Langholm Moor and the Tarras valley.

We stopped on the moor to look for hen harriers, and when we didn’t see any, we drove on down to the Tarras Valley and parked in the handy car park at the start of the road along the Tarras Water.

Our intention was to walk a mile or so along the road and back, seeing what we could see along the way.

We must have seen a lot because I came home with well over 100 pictures from two cameras. The light was pretty poor though, so a lot weren’t any good. All the same, I have put quite a few low quality pictures into the galleries from the walk just to show how much there was to see. Many readers may have contributed to the purchase of this area by the community.

We saw any amount of wild flowers. Heather, erica tetralix, sharp flowered rush, tormentil, lady’s bedstraw, bog asphodel, watercress in a ditch, knapweed, pignut, two mystery things, thistle, hawkbit and harebells . (Any corrections gratefully received.)

There were fauna as well as flora. Goats, buzzards, winchats, wagtails and a meadow pipit. (Once again, all identifications are open to corrections by people who know what they are talking about.)

As I am not up to lugging my biggest lens about on a walk any more, the birds and goats tended to be a bit further away than my cameras could cope with on such a grey day, but the gallery does show that there was a lot of wildlife about .

The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted this very pretty Cicadella Viridis lurking among the long grass. I have never seen one before.

There was more wildlife at a large party of Borthwicks who were having a sociable post non Common Riding gathering beside the river.

We graciously declined an offer to take part in a cherry stone spitting for distance competition as we went past.

In spite of the gloomy day, I took a number of views as we went along.

We had timed our walk well. It started to rain gently just as we got back to the car, and then a bit harder as we drove home.

For a two and a half mile walk, we reckoned that it had been pretty rewarding.

It started to rain a bit more earnestly when we got in, so that concluded the active part of our day.

The flying bird and flower of the day are combined, although the flying bird may turn out to be a bee.

An uncommon day

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. He came across a curious pattern in a field.

Today was Common Riding Day in Langholm, but the absence of three bands, a hundred and fifty horses and riders, and thousands of spectators left me with few photo opportunities. I decided to go for an uncommon ride on my bicycle to fill the day in a different way.

My plan was to ride down to Gretna and along the coast as far as Caerlaverock Castle and then come back more or less the same way. The plan started well, as I managed to get up, have my breakfast, get on my cycling gear, make two honey sandwiches, have a quick check on the sparrows on the bird feeder . . .

. . . and leave the house by ten o’clock.

I had had a look at the forecast before I left, and it suggested that as long as I avoided going into England to any great degree, I should be able to avoid any rain. However, by the time I had got to the top of the Canonbie bypass, it was raining gently and the view ahead did not look promising at all. Common sense dictated a change of route, so I turned right and kept to the higher ground as far as Annan.

Since I was going on a fairly long ride, I stopped every 10 miles or so to take a little refreshment and look about. By complete coincidence, my first stop coincided with my favourite pine cones.

The rain persisted as I cycled along, but it was so gentle that I didn’t need to get my rain jacket out, nor did I get wet. That is my kind of rain.

I did keep away from the coast though for as long as I could, and this took me through Kirtlebridge, over the Kirtle Water and under the railway viaduct.

The route was a little more hilly than I had planned, but by the time that I got down to Annan, I was on the flat lands beside the Solway Firth. The last time that I was in Annan, I stood on the new pedestrian bridge and took a picture of the old road bridge. Today, I stood on the road bridge and took a picture of the pedestrian bridge. I like a little variety in life.

The persistent light rain didn’t make for cheerful seaside shots, so I was pleased to see some horse riders on the shore when I got to Powfoot, and a little bit later I passed another set of horsey people. I stopped to take a picture with their permission when I had passed them.

I rested on a bench outside the Savings Bank Museum in Ruthwell to eat the first of my honey sandwiches. I mean to visit the museum one of these days, but it was shut today. I pressed on as the rain cleared, leaving me with a view of Criffel in the distance.

When I came to the little village of Bankfoot, I saw my first castle of the day.

Isle Tower is an early 17th century stone T-plan tower house, but it is not in good repair . . .

Caerlaverock Castle, a few miles further on, is in better condition (but only when seen from the front).

This was my turning point for home.

I found myself pedalling into the light wind on my way back, so I was pleased to stop at the Brow Well for my second sandwich and a rest.

They have installed a new bridge over the burn beside the well, and it is a stark contrast to the old one which I photographed on a sunny previous ride.

I saw an interesting plant while I was munching on my sandwich. It might be wild radish but if any reader knows better, I would be happy to hear.

On my way to Annan, I passed the oddest sight of the day.

A closer look when I got home, showed that they were not swallows or starlings but a great crowd of rooks.

I battled back through Annan and its busy traffic, and since the rain had eased off, I took the coast road to Gretna, stopping to lean on the wall at the Devil’s Porridge Museum while I ate a banana and had a drink of water. The fireless engine Sir James has had a coat of paint since I last went by. It looks like an undercoat for a new camouflage cover.

My final refreshment stop was beside the Longtown pond . . .

. . . where the light winds were leaving hardly a ripple on the surface of the water.

The very light rain continued to come and go as I went back up the hill to Langholm, but as it was still so light that I wasn’t getting wet, it didn’t bother me too much.

It might have done the garden some good though, as the front bed looked wonderful as I cycled into the drive.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been to a garden centre while I was out cycling, and she had acquired some nice begonias at an advantageous price. They had been planted out by the time that I got back.

She tells me that they don’t mind the wet.

After a cup of tea, provided by Mrs Tootlepedal, and a look at the birds – more sparrows and a rather indignant siskin . . .

. . . I went for a walk round the slightly damp garden before having a shower and a sibling Zoom.

For some reason, I felt a little tired in the evening, so I was happy to watch a bit of Gardener’s World before settling down to write this post.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow . . .

. . . and the joint flowers of the day are three sweet peas.

For those interested, I append a map of my cycle ride. A click on the map will show further details. It was a very flat route after the undulations brought about by my change of route at the start of the ride.

Compost fun

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She went to The Newt with my sister Mary recently, and took this picture of Mary sitting in contemplation in the Story of Gardening exhibition there.

We had to get the watering cans out again today. To be fair, it did rain a couple of times in the afternoon, once quite heavily. However, as each shower only lasted a couple of minutes, it didn’t make any material difference to the dryness of the garden.

I keep getting ambushed by the Olympics, and spend time both in the morning and late at night watching things like archery and whitewater canoeing to the detriment of doing useful things or getting a good night’s sleep.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden after breakfast while I watched rugby sevens, and then after coffee with Margaret, she went off to do things in the town and meet the new managers for the Tarras Valley nature reserve project. I finally found something useful to do.

I sieved the remaining compost in bin D and then moved the compost from bin C into the now vacant bin D.  Then, being on a roll, I moved to compost from bin B into the now vacant bin C, and finished this burst of activity by moving the compost from bin A into the now vacant in B .

I know that readers’ lives would be empty without illustrations of all this activity so I have put in a gallery showing in the top row bin A full and bin B empty, bin A empty and bin B full and then the full row of bins A to D when the whole process was finished. In the bottom row you can see bin A ready for more cuttings from the garden, bin B covered and ready to rot, and the red bucket full of the final product of all this activity.

There should be more finished product but Mrs Tootlepedal keeps throwing it away onto the garden behind my back.

This all took until lunchtime, but I did manage to take a few pictures too. Although I am not dead heading them as Mrs Tootlepedal wants them to seed, the little red poppies keep coming.

I got photobombed by another bee while trying to take a picture of my favourite dahlia of the day.

Some of the bees left flowers which they had visited in a rather untidy state.

Others were much neater.

I liked the sight of these three fuchsia flowers hanging like little marionettes, ready to dance.

While we were having coffee, we were visited by the official rose picker, collecting rambler roses to go into the ceremonial Common Riding crown.

The Crown won’t appear in the procession this year, as there will be no procession, but it will take its place in a local shop window and I hope to get a picture of it in all its glory there.

I had a rest after lunch, and then just as I was going to go for a walk, it started to rain…and stopped…and started again.

I checked on the birds between showers. The feeder was pretty quiet again, but there was a single moment when it almost goo busy.

I finally got going on my walk a bit later than I had intended. One of the little showers was very sharp and I didn’t want to get soaked. My timing was good, and I enjoyed a five mile walk ’round Potholm’ in warm and dry conditions with quite a bit of sunshine too.

We will need a lot more rain than just a few minutes’ worth if the rivers are going to fill up at all.

But there was enough water in the Ewes at the Kilngreen to attract wagtails, both of the pied and grey varieties.

It was a lovely day when the sun came out . . .

. . . and I enjoyed the dappled sunlight and shade as I walked up the hill to Holmhead . . .

. . . and down to the hill to Potholm at the other end.

In between, there were flowers and views to enjoy.

As I walked down to the bridge, I was struck by some very pretty flowers growing out of the wall beside the road. I think that they may be stonecrop sedum.

Having crossed the Esk by the bridge that you can see in today’s header picture, I walked along the road admiring the many different colours of lichen on the wall beside me.

I had conversations with cows.

Sunlit trees, chattering swallows, another wall full of spleenwort, and a look at our neighbour Liz’s garage covered by a Russian vine completed the sights of my walk.

I restored my strength when I got in with an evening meal of mince and tatties kindly cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

It should be the Common Riding tomorrow, but as there are no pubic festivities, I am intending to go for a bicycle riding instead.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is the little red rose climbing up beside the old bench.

Clouded vision

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair. He spotted a beautiful rose planted by site managers to improve the amenity of his local area.

We actually had some rain last night. Hooray. But as it only amounted to 2cm, and it had dried up before we got up, it didn’t help a great deal. Still, it was better than nothing.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning. She went off to help a gang of volunteers dust and spruce up the church as it emerges from lockdown. I stayed at home and after a leisurely breakfast and read through the papers, I was on hand to have coffee with our neighbours Margaret and Liz in the garden.

The rain had done nothing to dampen the delights of the dahlias, lupin, roses and poppies.

And it hadn’t discouraged the bees either. There were more bees about in the garden today than ever.

In the bottom of the gallery above you can see a bee literally falling out of a snapdragon and melancholy thistle with two bees on it at the same time. (As usual, if you click on a picture in a gallery, you get a fuller view.)

Mrs Tootlepedal has been tidying up the planting round the chimney pot and I thought that it looked very neat today.

Although the temperature had dropped 10°C from its peak last week, it was still pleasantly warm as we sat and chatted over coffee.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her church cleaning and I did some dead heading.

At lunchtime, I checked on the birds and found a chaffinch among the usual siskins . . .

. . . but traffic is still very light at the feeder.

After lunch, I had another look round the garden and found that dahlias and poppies seemed to be looking intently for something.

Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the church to add some outside weeding and strimming to the morning’s internal dusting and sweeping.

I listened to another episode of the radio drama that I had followed yesterday, and then went for a walk.

The weather forecast showed rain to the north of us and more rain to the south, but fine weather over Langholm. The cloudscapes from my stroll showed the forecast to be pretty accurate.

Some of the clouds did look a bit threatening at times, but they all passed me by to one side or the other. It was warm when the sun came out, and I was glad of the shade provided by the Kernigal wood.

Apart from the views, there was plenty to look at as I went along the Becks track, over the Auld Stane Brig, up onto Warbla and then home by way of Skippers Bridge and the Murtholm.

I saw the silverweed beside Skippers Bridge, and I was interested to see that it sends out runners like a strawberry. No wonder it spreads so freely along the edges of the roads.

There is a lot of rosebay willowherb about . . .

. . . and I thought that one or two other things seen on my walk deserved special attention.

A tree on Warbla.

Hundreds of hand reared pheasants newly put out in anticipation of the arrival of people wanting to shoot them in the autumn.

Some sensational nasturtiums displayed on a flower covered bicycle at Skippers Bridge. A bee photobombed me as I was taking the picture.

A promising crop of hazelnuts on the Murtholm.

Grasses catching the sun as I neared home.

The church looking particularly neat and tidy.

And finally, a warm welcome home from the phlox beside the phront door.

It was only four miles in length, but the walk was another demonstration of what a varied experience Langholm offers the ageing walker within easy reach of his home.

I had time for a cup of tea and a slice of toast and honey before the regular Zoom meeting with Mrs Tootlepedal and my siblings. After the meeting, we ate more vegetables from the garden with our evening meal and I had a last check on the birds.

A greenfinch turned up among the siskins.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance of serious rain here in the coming days in spite of thunderstorms appearing all over the rest of the country, so it looks as though we will be back to getting out the watering cans again tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin trying to sneak past the greenfinch unobserved.

Rain tomorrow

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony, and shows the harvest ripening in East Wemyss.

We had another cloudy but dry day here today. The wind was light and the temperature rose to 70°F (21°C) in the mid afternoon. As we think that 70°F is a perfect temperature for being in the garden, we were not too unhappy that we weren’t being roasted by a hot sun.

Neither of us slept very well so we had a slow start to the day, but we were happy to be up and about to welcome Margaret and Liz for coffee in the garden.

I checked the birds before we went out and saw that once again we were not short of blackbirds.

Three youngsters gave each other hard stares while picking up the fallen seeds.

And there was time for a quick walk round the garden while the coffee was brewing.

A new flower, St John’s Wort, has appeared . . .

. . . but an old favourite caught my eye too.

There were lots of bees in the garden today which was very enjoyable to see, and I spotted one on a dahlia. The dahlia might have been short of petals, but it was certainly not short of attractiveness to this passing bumblebee.

Liz and Margaret went off with a kohlrabi each, as we are growing more than we can eat. It will be interesting to see what they think of them.

Mrs Tootlepedal had pruned the Goldfinch rose yesterday, and after coffee today, she went to work on the Jacobite rose. I photographed the clematis that had been given space by the pruning of the Goldfinch rose . . .

. . . and then I did some shredding of the pruned Jacobite rose and sieved another lot of compost from Bin D, as well as doing some dead heading and tidying.

I cleared some more of the excessive vegetation out of the pond, and took the opportunity to point the camera at a very pretty water lily.

The Eryngium next to the bench where we had been sitting and chatting while drinking our coffee (and eating biscuits in my case) came in for some praise because of its remarkably blue stems which seem to get bluer every day . . .

. . . and we wondered if there was any evolutionary advantage to be gained from having such bright blue stems. We will be pleased if any knowledgeable reader can shed light on this question.

Everywhere I looked, I could see more bees today. This one was on a melancholy thistle.

Mrs Tootlepedal likes these two phlox together and you can see why.

I think that the dry weather is responsible for the white touches on the petals of the flowers.

I like this Inula, which I find is called Elecampane, Inula helenium, and also horse-heal or elfdock.

It is no wonder that I get baffled when trying to remember the names of flowers when every flower seems to have four or five different names.

I meant to go for a cycle ride straight after lunch but I got distracted by a play on the radio and didn’t get out in time for a longer ride. As a result when I finally got going, I went straight south out of the town down the main road to get a quick start. Interestingly, there was a lot less traffic on the road today, a working day, then there had been when I rode down it on Sunday.

When I got to Longtown, I turned onto to quieter roads and wound my way across country back to Langholm.

In the flat lands I came across a stream with some water in it . . .

. . . but as the water wasn’t actually running, it didn’t really count as a stream.

I also saw a golden field . . .

. . . of barley.

It was not a good day for views. In fact it was surprisingly gloomy considering that it is the middle of summer . . .

. . . so I made do with a blasted tree . . .

. . . and two different bees visiting knapweed flowers beside the road across the hill.

We are still in a butterfly desert though.

Thanks to the good start that going down the main road gives to a ride, I got round my 25 mile jaunt at a good speed, though I had to stop and be a good Samaritan on the way.

A young girl of about ten and her even younger brother were cycling in the opposite direction and when they saw me, they pulled over and asked if they were going in the right direction to get to the Hollows. I was able to tell them that they were going in precisely the wrong direction. Luckily they had not gone too far and I was able to point them to a suitable route to get them back to Canonbie where they had come from. I hope that they got home safely.

I got home safely and found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden again. I walked around with her and admired the latest sunflower to come out.

We had liver casserole with potatoes, turnips and spinach from the garden for our evening meal.

Mrs Tootlepedal did quite a lot of hand watering today in a desperate attempt to make sure it rains soon. The forecast is for rain tomorrow, but then the forecast yesterday was for rain today, and that never happened. Rain and jam seem to have a marked similarity when it comes to tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is a calendula.

Nature’s choicest gifts

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who saw a neatly thatched house recently.

Unusually, we didn’t wake up to a sunny morning and it was slightly cooler than it has been. We were grateful.

We spent the morning in the garden, with a break to go across the road to have a cup of coffee with Liz and Margaret in Lizzie’s garden.

We have decided to have a go at clearing out the pond and I made a start this morning at taking away some of the surplus water lily leaves. This revealed a great number of flowers which had been hidden from us before, and it also showed us that the pondweed has tiny flowers which we’d never noticed.

It is a major task and it will take some time to get it completed. In the meantime I wandered around the garden taking pictures of flowers in between sieving compost, dead heading, and watering.

Although there are still no butterflies, we have plenty of bees and I could see them today on a lupin , a melancholy thistle, and trapped in a Snapdragon . The dahlias continue to develop and French marigolds are very bright . . .

. . . and I have included a moss rose and a philadelphus as they are getting near the end of their time, while snapdragons, vinca and feverfew caught the camera’s attention too. I found three of the white dahlias all pointing the same way today.

When I went in for lunch, I took a moment to watch the birds, and as well as the usual siskins, there were quite a few sparrows about today.

After lunch I decided that it would be good to have a walk after several days of cycling.

The first verse of the song Bonnie Langholm, which we sang in the church yesterday, includes these lines:
“Stream and woodland, hill and valley, nature’s choicest gifts are thine. Like a wreath of glory round thee, gems of beauty rich entwine.”

I thought that in what should have Common Riding week, I ought to pick a walk to illustrate the truth of these words by D J Beattie.

I started along a stream. To tell to the truth, it is really a river, but the Esk is so low that it is more of a stream just now. A reader asked if the ducks and gulls were still around when the water is so low. There are some.

As I walked up the path past the Lamb Hill and onto the hill road, there were many of nature’s choicest gifts on hand, harebells, fireweed, ferns and perennial nasturtium, not to mention a really big thistle.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t really a day for views, being cloudy and rather hazy, but as the song mentions hills, I took a few pictures anyway, including a shot of the golf course just to make Dropscone happy..

And there were more of those choice gifts of nature on the hill too.

I walked along the quarry track past Whita Well, leapt nimbly over the style, and then went very carefully down the hill and into the woods into the valley below. The sun chose this moment to come out, and as it was quite hot, I was grateful for the shade provided by the oak trees.

As I went down the path beside Jenny Noble’s Gill, more gifts were to be found, including potential blackberries and striking longhorn beetle.

The only thing missing was Jenny Noble’s Gill itself as it has run completely dry.

I walked back to town along the banks of the Esk, taking in fine verbascums, much straighter than the one in our garden (now deceased), large clumps of the pretty but invasive Himalayan Balsam, and a patch of marsh woundwort.

It was so hot when I got back to the town, that I was fortunate to be able to pop into John’s shop just before it closed and purchase two large choc ices. I shared these with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got home. She had been busy in the garden andwas quite pleased to cool down too.

I felt that in the course of my five miles, I had met the challenge to visit hill and valley, stream and woodland and enjoy many of nature’s choicest gifts on the way.

We had another helping of roasted kohlrabi with our evening meal, and we are not at all unhappy to find that we have several more still growing well in the garden.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is that tall dahlia, smiling in the sunshine when I got back from my walk.

Flat out (and flat back)

Today’s guest picture comes from my Lancashire correspondent, Paul. He was cycling through Tockholes when he passed evidence that Lancashire farmers have been making silage when the sun shone too.

We had another very lovely day here, with the sun out almost all day. It was a degree or two cooler than it has been which made it into a perfect summer’s day.

We cycled to church to sing in the choir. It should have been the day of the annual Common Riding service, one of the best attended church events of the year. Indeed a wreath was laid at the war memorial, a piped lament played and the last post sounded, but there is no cornet this year, the wreath layers departed, and there was the usual threadbare attendance in the church. We sang hymns to Common Riding tunes, and ended the service with Bonnie Langholm, our town’s anthem, where the sopranos gave a rousing rendition of the descant in the third verse, but it wasn’t the same. We felt a little deflated as we cycled home.

After coffee, it was time for watering by hand again, and we chose what needed water most although the whole garden could do with a soak.

Mrs Tootlepedal wondered if she had planted too many calendulas in the front bed . . .

. . . but I think that she has got it about right. Especially when the calendulas look as good as this as they fade.

You might think that flowers naturally turn their faces to the sun but a bunch of dahlias in the next bed are quite prepared to look in every direction at once.

It makes it hard for the aspiring photographer to do them justice.

New flowers keep appearing. Today’s debutant is a coreopsis with plenty more flowers to come

There was a lot of work to do in the garden so I didn’t take as many pictures as usual before lunch. After lunch, I went off to add a few more cycling miles to my monthly total, as I am still a bit short.

Because it was Sunday and there should be few lorries about, I took the opportunity to ride down the main road to Longtown, and then go for a visit to my favourite bench at Newtown on the line of the Roman Wall.

With a helping wind, I whistled down to Longtown at an average of 16 mph, but I managed to slow down enough to look at the river Esk as I crossed the bridge. There is a lot more rock than water about at the moment.

From Longtown to Newtown, the road goes very gradually uphill, and with the wind now across me, I couldn’t keep up the same headlong speed, but I reached my bench in good time.

I was surprised to find it surrounded by cars . . .

. . . but the mystery was solved when I spotted a large tent and a notice saying “Afternoon teas £5”. This offer had drawn a good crowd . . .

. . . but I had the bit between my teeth so I left them to their fun, ate a banana, and set off back home (where afternoon tea is cheaper).

The cross wind was more helpful than not on the way back to Longtown, and I improved my average speed but could not get it back over 16 mph. I tried quite hard, and was happy to take a break by the river in Longtown to eat a Kit Kat bar and admire the handsome bridge.

As you can see, there is a bit of ragwort beside the river so I had a good look for the cinnabar moth caterpillars . . .

. . . but saw none.

A kindly old gentleman who was walking his dog nearby saw me stooping over the plant and called out, “Don’t poison yourself.” I must have looked more like an idiot than I usually do, but I assured him that I wasn’t intending to eat it.

The ten miles back to Langholm, gently uphill and straight into the wind, were the slowest of my outing, but the wind wasn’t very strong and I ended up with a satisfactory time for the forty miles, the quickest for a year or two.

The only downside of the outing was the traffic. There weren’t many lorries about, but there was a very large number of cars and the road from Langholm to Longtown road was very busy both ways. It wasn’t dangerous, but it wasn’t very restful. Holidays in Britain are obviously popular for some reason this year.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden when I got back, and we sat down under the shade of the walnut tree while I had a cup of tea and a biscuit or two . . . or three.

Above our heads, bees buzzed about the privet flowers . . .

. . . but were rather disobliging when it came to posing for me.

I had a walk round the garden before I went in and enjoyed the scent of the nicotianas . . .

. . . which have just started to flower.

The early evening sun brought out the scent in the nicotiana and the colour in other flower. I took pictures of calibrachoas. . .

. . . and nasturtiums embracing our front gate.

In the shade, I spotted a colourphul phlox . . .

. . . and a well packed clump of roses.

I have been watering the rambler rose and clematis combination on the railings just because I think they go together so well.

I went in and had a shower, and then got ready to go out again, this time on foot. I had a look at the bird feeder before we left and I noticed a young siskin pestering its parent for food. After a while the parent had had enough of this and flew off, leaving the youngster looking a bit bemused.

Our evening outing was to our neighbours, Irving and Libby, who had kindly invited us round for a drink. Among other things, they wanted us to see their lovely rambler rose. Visitors to their garden often compliment them on their skill in growing it. They have to tell them that it is in fact our rose which has grown so well that it has spilled over the fence into their garden, where they have made it very welcome. It looked just as lovely in their garden as it does in ours.

We drank some very tasty Belgian beer, enjoyed good conversation, and had a walk round their well tended garden before going home to a light meal.

All in all, a day which involved singing, sitting in two sunlit gardens, a good pedal, sociabilty and some Belgian beer is definitely one for the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is that siskin parent . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is a very cheerful dahlia.

Mrs Tootlepedal gets a present

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony, He found a butterfly very successfully pretending to be a leaf.

The forecast had suggested that it would be cooler today after the excessive heat of the past couple of days. It was cooler, but as it was only a couple of degrees cooler and the sun shone all day, we were not quite as grateful as we might have been.

Mrs Tootlepedal was out in the garden early but we wasted some of the coolest part of the morning by sitting inside and watching the end of the men’s road cycling race from the Olympic games. As it turned out to be a very exciting race, we didn’t mind too much.

Soon after the cycling finished, we went out into the garden and the sound of horses’ hooves on the street reminded us that the Castle Craigs Club had organised a small ride out as a token gesture on what should have been a very big day in the run up to the Common Riding. Small groups of riders were to set off on a short ride over the hills and back to the town. I went to see the first group of riders come up Jimmy’s Brae, and then I walked up behind them as far as the wonderful wild flower garden at the top of Holmwood.

We had to wait for some time until the next group arrived and it was bigger than we expected. I took some pictures of both groups.

It was good to see riders in action and to hear the clatter of hooves in our streets, even if it wasn’t the excitement of the gallop up the Kirk Wynd that should take place on Castle Craigs Day.

After the second group had passed, I went back home. As I got near, I saw a horse being led down our street, ready to be a part of the final group. As it passed our front gate, it did what horses do. Mrs Tootlepedal rushed out with a shovel and added valuable material to our compost heap.

As it happened, Margaret was coming up the road for coffee in the garden just as all this was going on, so we made sure that we left the road looking as neat and tidy as possible.

After coffee, we worked away in the garden and I took yet more pictures of dahlias.

The yellow dahlia is unusually tall.

Some new flowers are out, like this astilbe . . .

. . . and another sunflower is showing its face.

During the day, I took a couple of broader shots to show that in spite of the lack of rain, we are still looking reasonably green and colourful . . .

. . . but Mrs Tootlepedal, who was improving the planting in one of the beds, says that the soil is bone dry and dusty as far as she dug down. I watered some of the vegetables using a watering can.

The potatoes seem unaffected so far, and Mrs Tootlepedal dug up a good crop from a Vivaldi, one of our second earlies.

Lots of flowers looked good enough to warrant a picture I thought, even if they have appeared on the blog before (many times).

I thought a snapdragon deserved a solo billing.

Although we are not seeing any coloured butterflies in the garden at all, there are several cabbage whites fluttering about. Mrs Tootlepedal is not so happy too see them looking for places to lay eggs in her vegetable garden as I am.

After lunch, we went to the Co-op in the car to do a little shopping, and when we got back, Mrs Tootlepedal retired for a well deserved siesta, while I alternately watched the siskins on the feeder . . .

. . . snoozed at the table while not listening to the radio, and poked my head out into the garden from time to time, where I saw a jackdaw . . .

. . . and found a stem of Lilian Austin roses looking just about as perfect as a stem of roses could look.

Mrs Tootlepedal came down from her siesta and we had a cup of tea. Fortified by this and a large banana, I finally got up the strength to go for a cycle ride. It was still pretty warm at 23°C, but the sun was past its peak and was much less fiery than it had been earlier in the afternoon.

I rather boringly went round my familiar Canonbie route once again, and found the wind strong enough to keep me cool but not strong enough to make a nuisance of itself as I cycled against it. It was a glorious day as I cycled through the gentle farmland towards the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass . . .

. . . but I was not tempted to stop a lot for pictures and only took a view of the new Canonbie wastewater treatment works . . .

. . . which have a lot more going on underground than appears on the surface, and one other picture of Gilnockie or Hollows Tower . . .

. . . which I thought that I ought to take after showing a picture of the memorial to Johnnie Armstrong on a recent post. Johnnie Armstrong came from Gilnockie and had a tower here but not this one. His, which has been demolished and disappeared, was a few hundred yards away. This tower currently houses a Clan Armstrong museum and is well worth a visit.

I managed a reasonable speed and got home on good time for my evening meal, which included some of those Vivaldi potatoes.

The forecast now says that it not going to cool down until Tuesday, and the promised rain is looking more doubtful by the day. I can see that I will soon have long arms from lugging the watering can about.

The flying bird of the day is an oystercatcher flying over the garden this afternoon.