Watering and wandering

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She visited the Rose Garden in Regents Park after playing tennis on Saturday..

More good weather and a fairly active day led to too many photographs being taken. Today’s post is heavy on galleries to enable judicious skipping for busy readers.

I started the day by preparing this month’s Langholm Initiative newsletter for publication, and then went for a look round the garden where subdued colours caught my eye.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been looking after some tiny willow seedlings for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, and as we had volunteered to water the trees at the reserve’s tree nursery today, we put the tray of willows in the back of the car and drove to Cronksbank.

The trees in the nursery are doing pretty well but watering is needed because of the current dry spell. It took a bit of time to go round the thousands of trees. Across the Little Tarras valley, a vapour trail made us wonder if the pilot had had more coffee than was wise before setting off on his flight. On the other side, we could see the vans of the road menders who are repairing the many deep potholes on the hill road, and there is a lot of natural regeneration going on without any help from us.

It was time for lunch when we got home.

Then I changed into my cycling shorts and single top layer, ready to go out for a pedal on a really good day for cycling. I was naturally tempted to have a walk round the garden before setting off. The sun made everything look very cheery, and it has brought on the first flowers on the Roseraie d’Hay

I went round the Crosssdykes windfarm on my e-bike, passing fine may blossom, and having to wait at Paddockhole Bridge to let two huge lorries inch their way across in front of me. My little Lumix chose this moment to fatally seize up, and by the time that I had got my phone out, the lorries had crossed the bridge.

I took the rest of the pictures on my outing with my phone. I don’t know what the yellow flowers in the verge are. Any help in ID would be appreciated. The gallery ends with a splendid view of the Gates of Eden. (To enjoy the views at full size, click on a picture)

Wind turbine technology has improved a lot in recent years, and the turbines were very quiet as I stood not far away from them.

I must be getting back to full health because I went round the 26 miles at much the same speed as I achieved when I did the same trip last autumn.

I had time for a cup of tea and a sprint round the garden in the afternoon sunshine. . .

. . . before we had a Zoom meeting with our son Alistair and his daughter Matilda. She has been in the wars and had a sore foot and a sore hand to show us, but she was very cheerful all the same.

After the meeting, Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked round the garden again, and sat on the bench at the end of the lawn to enjoy the sights and smells. New roses are coming out and the alliums are starting to go over.

There were birds above our heads.

Then we went back in to have another Zoom meeting, this time with my brother and sisters. They had some good flower pictures to show us.

After that meeting, Mrs Tootlepedal prepared our evening meal, while I cleared up a bit more of the back path. When the meal was finished, I published the newsletter and paid a last visit to the garden where I was fortunate to catch a diving blackbird, intent on seeing off a rival, as the flying bird of the day.

I append a map of today’s ride as I know some readers like to see them. It shows a route that is not excessively hilly but which hardly has any flat sections in it.

Sunday, a day of rest

Toady’s guest picture comes from blog reader Michelle. She kindly sent me this picture of a waterfall on the Burn O’Vat at Muir of Dinnet, which is just within the boundaries of the Cairngorm National Park in Aberdeenshire. She points out that it has not rained a lot there recently!

It did not rain here today either, as we had another in our spell of warm and pleasant days. I went out into the garden after breakfast to have a look around. There was plenty to catch the eye, both in the way of flowers . . .

. . . and birds and bees.

The closing of the feeder has not made much of a dent in the sparrow population in the garden, if any. I saw sparrows waiting to peck vegetables, waiting to be fed, and even worse, waiting to build a new nest.

Starlings were about in numbers. They don’t eat the veg, so we don’t mind them even if they are a bit noisy at times.

And there was quite a lot of non flower colour to be enjoyed as well.

We cycled to church, and found a choir short of numbers but a slightly larger congregation than usual. We sang as cheerfully as we could.

After church, we had coffee as usual and then went out into the garden. I had another wander about. There are several Sweet Williams out now.

A deep red rhododendron has appeared.

And more flowers are opening on the white potentilla.

Mrs Tootlepedal did quite a lot of watering while I had another go at excavating the back path. I am doing basic clearing at the moment, and I had got about half way along when I stopped for the sake of my back.

I had a final walk round before lunch. We have two roses out at the moment, and more flowers are coming out on them every day.

The first poached egg flowers have appeared behind the pond.

I did think about going for a short walk after lunch, but I spent so much time thinking about it that there was no time left to actually go for a walk. I went out and looked at passing birds instead, and spotted a pigeon, a starling, a rook and a jackdaw.

Then it was time to drive to Carlisle for our Carlisle Community Choir practice. We have a concert in two weeks so it was a bit disconcerting to find that our director had not been able to come yet again. However, a very competent substitute had been provided, and we had an enjoyable and useful session.

We got home to find that Mark Cavendish had won the final stage of the Giro, so that was a bit of a consolation after Geraint Thomas’ disappointment the day before. In a tribute to Geraint, who is Welsh, I took a picture of the finest mature Welsh poppy in the garden today.

The flying bird of the day was one of the busy starlings.

Under powered

Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Liz. She found an inviting gate at the end of a tunnel this afternoon.

Our spell of excellent weather continued today, and I spent a lot of time outside. After breakfast, I opened the greenhouse and did some watering in the vegetable garden. The downside of the good weather is that the soil in the garden is getting rather dry.

Lots of starlings are feeding their young in the garden, and it is a very noisy place at the moment, loud with the impatient demands for food. The walnut tree was a popular spot this morning.

After I had done the watering and some poppy dead heading, I sieved some compost and then I had a walk around to enjoy the colour.

Our neighbour Margaret came round for coffee and then we went back out into the garden where I mowed the front and middle lawns. I used to spend a lot of time and quite a lot of money trying to get perfect lawns in a climate that favours moss over grass, but I have changed my tune now. Considering that they have not been watered fertilized, hand mowed or weedkilled for some time now, I am very relaxed about how they look.

You can probably see the early attempts at some wild flower beds in the front lawn on the left. If things go well, I hope that they will take up more space in the lawn in years to come.

There was time for some more colour enjoyment before lunch.

After lunch, I spent some time watching the early riders in the final time trial of the Giro, but it was quite boring so I went out to have a look at what was going on the garden. It was starlings again. This time they were hopping about on the holly.

I looked at the gooseberries, which are promising (and marvelled once again at the camera’s ability to completely ignore the cage netting between it and the fruit) . . .

. . . had a look across the middle of the garden . . .

. . . and then did some path clearing myself. It is amazing how much grows on top of what are brick and paving paths if you let it. I felt a bit like an archaeologist.

As a supporter of Geraint Thomas, I had a bad feeling about the outcome of the decisive time trial at the Giro, so rather than watch it and have my withers wrung, I went for a cycle ride myself, relying on Mrs Tootlepedal to tell me the result when I got home.

It was warm enough to wear a single top layer and a pair of natty shorts for my excursion round Canonbie, even though the sun was not out.

I looked across the Solway to the Lake District hills . . .

. . . and imagined that on a bank holiday weekend, visitors would be pushing each other aside to take Instagram selfies on the summit while I cycled along deserted roads in perfect peace.

There was plenty to look at as I pedalled along.

Because my road bike has been in the bike shop for weeks, I have been doing all my cycling on my e-bike this month. This was very handy when I was recovering from being ill, as it gave me the opportunity to do some good miles without the risk of overtiring myself. However, I was getting a bit worried that I might be getting lazy, so I pedalled as much as I could with no electrical assistance today. The e-bike is heavy and quite testing to pedal without help so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that my legs were well up to the task. In fact, I enjoyed it, and found that it was more relaxing than vigorously spinning the pedals to keep my speed up with the electric motor working. I didn’t have to try a lot harder, I just went slower.

It goes to prove once again, that cycling on an e-bike with gusto keeps me just as fit as pedalling on a normal road bike.

I didn’t stop a lot on my way back through Canonbie, but two well stocked verges caught my eye.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal told me the sad news that Geraint had not managed to hold onto his small lead. I was very sad for him, as it would have been a great triumph for him to win at his relatively advanced age.

We rounded off the day with an excellent meal of mince and tatties. As my twenty mile cycle ride had taken me over 400 miles for the month, the first time that I have managed this since August last year, I felt it had been a very good day in spite of the Giro disappointment. With the good weather set to continue, there may be even more miles to add to the total before the month is over.

The flying bird of the day, needless to say, is two starlings.

Getting closure

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone. He has a substantial horse chestnut tree in his garden.

Our spell of fine weather continued, and as I had an appointment in the afternoon, I got out comparatively early (10 o’clock) for a cycle ride.

I had hoped to go up the A7 to Fiddleton, and then take the road across to Hermitage. From Hermitage, I would have liked to come home via Newcastleton and the road over the hill across the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, especailly as they have been repairing the potholes on the hill road. However, when I went past the end of the hill road as I left Langholm, I saw that it was still closed for repairs, so I adjusted my plans and decided to come back by way of Canonbie, adding 6 miles to the trip.

I took this picture just after I had crossed the High Mill Brig as I left Langholm . . .

. . . and then I kept my camera in my pocket as the main road was quite busy. I took it out again when I got to the back road over the hill to Hermitage . . .

I stopped at the corner that you can see in the picture above to admire the little bridge over the Carewoodrigg Burn and a green veined white butterfly, which was sunning itself beside the bridge.

It is a long slog up the hill to the top of the ridge, but I had electrical assistance again today as my road bike is still in the bike shop. It still required quite a push to get up the steep slope, but the views when I got there were very rewarding on a fine day.

There is a good whizz down the other side of the hill into the Borders Region, but I took it carefully and stopped at the bottom to enjoy the restored bridge at Billhope.

I like riding down unfenced hill roads but sadly the road gets less open and more poorly surfaced before you get to the castle. . . .

When I got to the junction of the Hermitage road with the road that would take me down to Newcastleton, I met an unexpected setback. A large red sign said ‘Road Closed Ahead’. Unfortunately, it didn’t say where it was closed, or when, or for how long. I was faced with a quandary. If the road was closed south of Newcastleton, there were alternative routes to Canonbie available, if it was closed half way to Newcastleton, there was an alternative route to Newcastleton available, but if it was closed just north of the village, I was stuck, and the only thing to do was to turn back and go home by the way that I had just come.

I didn’t want to do that, so I crossed my fingers and headed on down the road to Newcastleton. As I got closer and closer to the village, my hopes were raised, but, naturally enough, I came upon the road closed sign just north of the village. There was a man in a van beside the sign, and when I asked if an elderly cyclist could slip through, he gave it some consideration, and finally said that I could go through at my own risk if I was prepared to walk if necessary.

I pedalled on and found that the work had actually been completed, the road was repaired and clear of men and machines, and there was no need for walking. I was mightily relieved.

When I got to the sign at the far end of the works, I came across a large group of motor scooter enthusiasts standing in the road. They were quite indignant when they saw me. “How did you get through?” they asked. I explained that the works were finished and when they asked me if it was safe for them to go, I said it wasn’t for me to say, and cycled on, leaving them to scratch their heads about the best way to proceed.

I stopped for a snack at a lay-by when I was well south of Newcastleton. I enjoyed the sights as I snacked.

It really was a lovely day to be out and about. However, with my afternoon appointment in mind, I was getting a bit pushed for time, so I took this shot of the hill up from the county boundary while I was still pedalling (very slowly) . . .

. . . and then stopped taking pictures. I took the shorter but poorly surfaced route from Harelaw to Claygate to get home, managing to avoid the worst of the potholes in shady spots as I went under tree lined sections of the road, and arriving in perfect time for lunch.

I had time for a shower and a walk round the garden . . .

. . . before we went off to see our solicitor and sign our newly written wills and forms for a lasting power of attorney. Satisfied with this, we went shopping, and then settled down to watch the end of today’s stage of the Giro. The scenery among the Dolomites was sensational, and the racing towards the end of the stage was pretty good too. We have our fingers crossed that Geraint Thomas can hold on for the win tomorrow.

Then it was time to prepare the evening meal, have the regular Zoom with my brother and sisters, and do a little gardening. Mrs Tootlepedal cut back a berberis that was shading the vegetable beds, and I trimmed a spirea that was encroaching on a path. My task was easier than hers and I had time for another walk round the garden when I had finished.

All in all, it was a very satisfactory day, even though there were no bird feeder pictures as the feeder has been taken down in the interests of sparrow control. I did manage to catch a flying bird crossing the garden.

I append a map of today’s outing.

I append a map of today’s route:

A cross word in England

Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony. It shows a stunning dawn in East Wemyss with added dog appeal.

We had another fine day here as our spell of good weather continued. This was lucky, as we went off after breakfast to do some volunteer tree planting on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. I took a picture of young starlings in the walnut tree before we left to show that the tree is producing a healthy crop of leaves.

When we got to Broomholmshiels, a farmer was fertilising his fields near by . . .

. . . and it made a dramatic backdrop as the volunteers walked over the moor.

The haze was further away than it looks in the photo, and we had a peaceful and warm day to do our work. Coats were not needed.

This was the last tree planting session of the spring, and it was good to see that earlier efforts are paying off.

I noted cotton grass and tormentil as we walked back to the road.

It was lunchtime by the time we got home, and while Mrs Tootlepedal made some soup, I had a walk round the garden.

I checked on the birds after lunch and found a sparrow family in the willows round the feeder.

Dad was very busy flying down to fetch seed and feed one youngster at a time. The youngsters waited impatiently for his return.

The main business of the afternoon was giving Drospcone a lift down to the hospital in Carlisle to get his injured arm checked out. The journey went smoothly, but we had a bit of a wait before he was seen, so it was lucky that I had saved my crossword to do while we were waiting. It was quite a knotty puzzle, and it lasted perfectly. I had just completed it as Dropscone came out of his appointment. He didn’t think that it had been a very useful meeting, but he has now got a referral for physio treatment and he will have to return to the hospital for that. I can see another crossword or two coming up.

We got back to Langholm in time for me to drop the patient off at his home, and then get changed and go out for a quick cycle ride before our evening meal. I took the shorter route round the Solwaybank Windfarm, and got home in good time to enjoy Mrs Tootlepedal’s lightly poached salmon, enhanced by the first spinach from the garden.

I used a lot of electrical assistance to go round the 19 miles as quickly as I could, but I did stop for one or two pictures on my way to show what a grand day it was. The strong sunshine makes for deep shadows and this makes cycling under trees a nervous business as it is hard to spot potholes.

And there was time when I got back for a last walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal while the potatoes were cooking.

We have some Herb Robert growing and the first flowers have appeared on the broad beans. I had seen the Herb Robert yesterday and I tried to show it to Mrs Tootlepedal, but when the time came, I couldn’t remember where it was. I was embarrassed. Luckily, she found it for herself today while she was gardening.

The industrial quantities of sparrows in the garden, all eating her growing vegetables, have led to Mrs Tootlepedal to ask me to suspend feeding the birds for a while, in the hope that the sparrows go elsewhere and leave her leaves alone. This seems a fair request, especially as we don’t seem to be feeding many other birds at the moment, so I will take down the feeder tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if the sparrows do try somewhere else.

In the meantime, a sparrow is the flying bird of the day.

Hovering about

Today’s guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron. He has got an electric bike too, and sent me this idyllic picture from one of his recent rides.

We had another fine and warm day here today, but there was a brisk wind, so I was happy to let my bike have a day off while I spent some time in the garden enjoying the sunshine.

I did some useful tasks, starting with using the hover mower to trim a path along the dam at the back of the house. The idea is to leave as much natural growth as we can while making it possible to move about without falling into the water. I couldn’t help noticing that another oriental poppy had come out at the far end.

When I had finished, I had a walk round the garden, taking in a developing rosebud, good growth on the recently pruned buddleia, and a very pale aquilegia.

Then we had coffee.

After coffee, I turned my hand to composting, first sieving a barrow load of compost from Bin D and then turning almost all the compost from Bin B into Bin C which has been lying empty. This was fairly energetic work and it took me until lunch to complete the task. I didn’t take any compost pictures as too much excitement is not good for elderly readers.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal sat down to watch the Giro, and I went out into the garden to see if I could photograph some of the young starlings responsible for a terrific amount of noise during the morning. There were young starlings on every tree and bush waiting to be fed . Harassed parents fetched them tempting morsels.

I got distracted by an astrantia, many alliums, and the first Rosa Moyesii of the year . . .

. . . but the noisy starlings soon reclaimed my attention.

I found an adult sitting beside a blackbird. Some parents went for creepy crawlies . . .

. . . while others mined for sunflower seeds.

I went back in and unwisely sat down to watch a few minutes of the cycling before doing something useful. Two hours later at the end of the stage, I managed to haul myself off the sofa and check on the bird feeder. A young starling was getting some seed carried to it.

Then I went to see what what was happening outside. Flowers were coming out. Lupins had started, more irises had appeared, and another flower had come out on the rose bush.

I went in to cook some beef olives for our evening meal, and while the potatoes were cooking, I nipped out and mowed the middle lawn.

The weather stayed fine and the wind had dropped, so I went out for a short three bridges walk after our meal. It was a perfect evening for a stroll.

As well as the peaceful sunlit views, I was pleased to see the red horse chestnut in flower, and the ivy leaved toadflax on the wall at the Scholars Field was doing very well.

The only bad thing about the day was a communication with the bike shop. My road bike has been there for weeks while having what should have been a quick and simple service. However, when I asked what was happening, the mechanic described the situation as ‘a can of worms’, and it turns out that new parts are needed, and these have been hard to get hold of. All being well, I should get my bike back next week. After 300 miles on my electric bike while the road bike has been at the bike shop, I just hope that I won’t have forgotten how to pedal under my own steam when I do get back on it again.

Dropscone continues to improve. I am taking him to hospital for a check on his shoulder tomorrow afternoon, so I will get a full update then.

The flying bird of the day is a passing pigeon.

A land of milk and honey

Today’s guest picture shows that it is possible to visit a garden on just the right day as my brother Andrew discovered when he visited Lea Gardens this morning.

We had another warm and pleasant day here, often cloudy but with occasional sunshine. After our usual leisurely breakfast, I did the crossword and then cycled up to the High Street to buy milk and honey. On my way, I called in at the butcher and acquired an enormous sausage roll which Mrs Tootlepedal and I shared later for our lunch.

It was time for coffee when I got back, but I had a walk round the garden while the coffee was brewing. It wasn’t hard to spot a bit of bright colour in a sunny moment.

After coffee, we went back out into the garden and I cut back a lot of dead branches from the old fashioned fuchsia at the back gate. There is enough new growth coming from the bottom of the plant to hope that it is going to survive. As I looked along the back of the house, I could see some more bright colour. The first oriental poppy had come out.

I love these flowers, and I had a closer look at its working parts.

I shredded the dry branches of the fuchsia, and then strimmed round the edges of the vegetable garden beds. It has been some time since we last had meaningful rain, so I took the watering can and gave the raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries a bit of a soak. I don’t know if they really needed it, but it made me feel better.

Our lilac has had a hard time of it in recent years and has not looked well, so it was a surprise to spot a healthy looking flower . . .

. . . but even so, I don’t think that the bush will last much longer.

I was talking to Mrs Tootlepedal as she was working on a bed beside the front lawn when I noticed a little movement on the bench beside the middle lawn.

A quick zoom by my little Lumix revealed a sparrow busy catering to the demands of a youngster.

I was having trouble getting good flower pictures in the bright light, so I went in and got my bird camera out as it has a macro lens and more control over speed and aperture than the Lumix. I took a lot of pictures but these were my two favourites.

After eating the enormous sausage roll for our lunch, we settled down and watched a really good stage of the Giro. The scenery was fantastic, and the racing was good from start to finish. From time to time during the racing, I got up and checked on the bird feeder. There was plenty of action from sparrows there too.

I noticed a starling on the feeder at the end of the stage . . .

. . . as well as a striking pigeon below the feeder. Mrs Tootlepedal spotted that it had a band on its leg, showing that it is probably a homing pigeon stopping on its way for a snack on its way back to base.

I hadn’t intended to sit for as long as I did, but there was still time when the Giro stage had finished for a quick whizz round the 20 mile Canonbie circuit on my electric bike. Mrs Tootlepedal went off on hers to do some shopping at the Co-op. It is an indication that I am getting back to full strength that I was 15 minutes quicker today than when I first tried this ride after getting ill at the start of the month.

I took a few pictures as I went round.

Following some discussion with correspondents after my picture of the cyclists’ bridge at Ecclefechan in a recent post, I thought that I would take two more pictures of the cycling provision on my Canonbie route today. This is the old main road bypassed by a new section of road and now a cycle route . . .

. . . and this is the track a little further on, which was constructed when the new road was built.

As you can see, the track is narrow, overgrown and badly maintained, while the road is wide and well looked after. Hmm. The cycle path is most unsafe when it has been raining. The new section of road cost £8 million, so it is easy to see that there was nothing left for us cyclists.

The nights are getting so light now that I could have stayed out longer, but I was more than ready for my evening meal by the time that I got home. It is a sobering thought that it is now less than a month to the longest day . Everything will be downhill again after that. This year hardly seems to have started before it is nearly half over.

I refilled the feeder and a grateful greenfinch came for its supper.

I rang Dropscone up to see how he was doing, and he told me that he had felt well enough to go for a short walk today. This is good progress.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Straight up

Today’s guest guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She has been visiting local gardens, and kindly sent me this picturesque scene.

We had another lovely spring day here, not sunny all the time, but sunny enough to keep us cheerful. I dillied and dallied a bit, doing some tidying up and shredding of the ex buddleia bush, checking on the birds . . .

. . . and walking round the garden enjoying the vivid colours of geums, poppy, azaleas and the last tulip. . .

. . . and picking out some favourites like these aquilegias . . .

. . . and the ever expanding euphorbia.

And finally, after a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, I got my bike out, gave it clean and set off to cycle north uphill and into the wind for an hour. The hill to Mosspaul isn’t very steep and the wind wasn’t very strong, so with the aid of copious electricity, I managed twelve and a half miles in 56 minutes and stopped to turn at a convenient entrance to this impressive little quarry.

It had a promising pine tree at its entrance.

Because it was a working day and the road was quite busy, I didn’t stop to take pictures except for this single shot of the tree felling at Mosspaul.

The picture doesn’t show how steep the banking is. The people who planted the trees on this difficult slope were regarded as pretty special workers in their time, but the people who have cleared it like this must have had some really good machines to help them. It is a lesson in how misjudged grant schemes can encourage people to grow the wrong trees in the wrong place.

With the wind behind me and the slope in my favour, I did the twelve and a half miles home in forty seven minutes, using very little help. The ride took my mileage for the month to just over 300, and with the good weather set to stay with us until the end of the month, if all goes well, I might get a decent monthly total for the first time this year.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden while I was out, and after a cheese and chutney sandwich for my lunch, I joined her. I mowed the greenhouse grass and the vegetable garden paths, finished clearing up and shredding the buddleia, and then had another walk round.

The mini wild flower meadow on the drying green is not a riot of colour yet but there are signs of life.

Some afternoon sunshine brought out the best in the rhododendron.

I looked at some of the flowers that Mrs Tootlepedal is considering for her putative blue border next spring.

I hope that it does appear, as it should look very good. Mrs Tootlepedal is worried about what to do with the border after the blue flowers are over, but I think that it would be worth while even if it was a little dull later in the summer. We shall see.

I spent a little time trying to get my camera to look up at a nectaroscordum without me having to lie on my back. There were a lot of discards before I got this shot.

I sat on a bench to recover and a dunnock scurried across the lawn, pausing for one vital moment.

Then I took a picture of the back path (or ‘Ally’s allium alley’ as it is sometimes known). . .

. . . and went in.

I had a look at the birds, and noticed a greenfinch having a bit of a misjudgement as it tried to land on the feeder.

A sparrow had better timing.

We should have had a Zoom with our granddaughter Matilda and son Alistair, but they were having too much fun in the sun in the garden, so we gave it a miss. I went out to see what was making all the racket in our garden. There were blackbirds, starlings and sparrows flying about in all directions feeding their plaintive young. I caught some of them having a well earned rest. along with a singing dunnock and a passing jackdaw.

A peony caught my eye . . .

. . . and I liked this little rowan tree which grew uninvited in the garden and has been transplanted by Mrs Tootlepedal as a feature in the front bed.

Then I went back in and had a Zoom with my brother and sisters. My sister Mary had literally walked miles to visit the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park today only to find that the azaleas and rhododendrons were pretty well over. It is an iron law of garden visits that you are always a week too early or a week too late.

It was Dropscone’s birthday today and when I rang him up, he told me that he was feeling a little better and had managed to make some soup to mark the occasion.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

A quiet but enjoyable day

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie. She went to Dunster beach in Somerset yesterday. She tells me that if you look very hard across the beach, you might be able to see the sea and even Wales, but I think that she is being optimistic.

We had a very quiet day here as far as the weather went, warm and dry with a light wind, and we had a very quiet day as far as life went too, with morning church, coffee with our neighbour Margaret, and afternoon choir in Carlisle filling the day. We did manage a little gardening between coffee and lunch, with wild flower planting on the front lawn, general tidying up, and shredding some of the buddleia that we cut down yesterday.

The congregation in the church was larger than usual, the hymns were good to sing and when we got home, the coffee and conversation were satisfying. The garden is getting more full with flowers every day. Some are still potential like the lupins and peonies . . .

. . . and some are flourishing like Welsh poppies, azaleas and alliums.

Mrs Tootlepedal is considering a blue border for next year with ajuga, Veronica and cornflowers among others . . .

. . . and as our first iris has just come out, irises may be candidates too.

I like a our blue aquilegia but I don’t think Mrs Tootlepedal likes it as much as I do.

But then I like all aquilegias.

Welsh poppies are spreading over the whole garden and it is lucky that there are lots of Icelandic poppies too, because they go over very quickly and need dead heading after a day or two..

The nectaroscordums are developing slowly in a statuesque sort of way.

I was so pleased to see a bee on a geranium that I took its picture twice

There was steady activity on the bird feeder without any great excitement.

Goldfinches, greenfinches and sparrows were the main customers today.

The afternoon choir practice went very well, and we were able to run through the whole programme for our forthcoming concert in June. We were by no means perfect, but we we sang through the pieces without breaking down. My voice is still not back properly after a break of three weeks with no home study, so I will have to set to work to get it back in order.

Dropscone has had further misfortune. He rang up to tell me that he has had a bad reaction to something, probably the medicines that he is taking, and he is off to see the doctor again tomorrow. At least he is clear of Covid. He has been to A&E so often that they are thinking of giving him a season ticket. We are due to have a week of good weather and it will be nice if he is able to get out and enjoy it.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Getting there

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. He had two spectators for his walk with his dogs this morning.

We had another day of calm, fine weather here today, so it was a natural thought that some cycling might be in order. I even got organised enough to get going before coffee time, though I did waste a little time by walking round the garden before I set off.

My idea was to go down to the Solway shore at Powfoot by way of Ecclefechan and Hoddom, and return by Annan and Kirkpatrick Fleming. It turned out to be quite a good idea and I enjoyed the outing a lot. I took far too many pictures so I have put them in galleries. I apologise for this, as it should be me who makes the selection for the post, and I shouldn’t leave to you to wade through a great mass of images in the hope of finding one that interest you. To tell the truth, I am a little tired at the moment and the effort of picking the right pictures is beyond me.

I didn’t take any pictures until I got to Ecclefechan where I crossed the motorway by this relatively new cycle and pedestrian bridge.

You might think that I should be grateful for this structure, but I am not really, It is too narrow for two cyclists to pass by comfortably, and as it is crossing a motorway with six lanes and two emergency lanes as well, it seems to me typical of the way that transport spending in the UK is skewed towards motorists, and the comfort and safety of cyclists and pedestrians is almost always an afterthought. Would it have broken the bank to have made it wide enough for a parent pushing a pushchair and a touring cyclist with panniers to be able to pass each other with ease? No.

This was only a momentary annoyance though, and there was much to enjoy on my way to Powfoot.

When I got to Powfoot, I took a picture of the golf course where Dropscone often plays just to remind him of past pleasures (and pains). The tide was in, which is a rare occurrence when I visit the Solway shore, and the display of hawthorns along the railway to Dumfries was stunning.

Because it is usually busy with traffic, I didn’t go through the town when I got to Annan, but turned off beside the river and went up the hill towards Chapelcross.

Chapelcross power station is in the process of being decommissioned and dismantled. It was closed in 2004 so the process is taking some time. I found a very frank discussion of our nuclear decommissioning on the internet.

On my way home through Kirkpatrick Fleming, Glenzier, and the Esk valley, I looked at wild flowers.

When I chose my route, I didn’t know quite how long it would be, but I thought that it would be near 60 miles. In the end, it fell a little short of that and I got home after 56 very enjoyable miles. I am not back to full fitness after my recent illness so it took me a little longer than I would have ideally liked, but I had plenty of battery life left when I got home, so I must have pedalled unassisted quite a lot.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the day gardening while I was out. A quick walk showed that the garden is looking better every day now that the warmer weather has arrived. (Our local weather station registered 72°°F/22°°C for a brief period this afternoon.)

The birds on the feeder were mostly sparrows but a goldfinch did get a look in.

I remembered the Zoom meeting with my siblings today, and there was time after it finished for Mrs Tootlepedal and me to go back out into the garden to cut down most of a big buddleia which has failed. It has got one stem with some leaves on though, so we have left that standing in the hope of a new start for the plant.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

I append a map of today’s outing.