Staying at home

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother-in-law Mike and shows his granddaughter Lara putting in the last pieces of an enormous jigsaw puzzle.

LaraMrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see our granddaughter Matilda today but I stayed at home.  As soon as she had left to catch the train at Lockerbie, I went back upstairs to catch some extra zeds as I was feeling rather tired.

Refreshed by my snooze, I came downstairs and saw some feathered friends hanging around in hope.

jackdaw and starlingThere was nothing in the lawn feeder.

starlingI quickly put some of the famous pink pellets out and stood back to watch the fun.

starlings queuing upThe starlings put on a neat demonstration of whirling through the air.

starlings flyingI left them to their antics and retired indoors to prepare a practice version for another of our Carlisle choir songs.  It takes me a bit of time, not being a pianist myself, but I enjoy it and it is just the thing for when I want a quiet day.

After lunch, I had time to look out of the window….


A very grumpy looking goldfinch

collared dove

The first visit for some time of some collared doves

…and a quick walk round the garden…

pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Icelandic poppy

In my pursuit of Shirley poppies I have been neglecting the Icelandic poppy.  The stay in flower for months on end.

…before a fellow member of our Langholm choir came round to put a bit of much needed practice in.  Our new musical director may think that we are better than we actually are so we felt that a bit of homework would not go amiss.   We will see whether our work was any use at the choir meeting tomorrow.

It was a cool, dry day and it seemed a pity to spend the whole day inside so after Eric had gone, I went off for a walk.

I headed for the Kilngreen, home of many sitting ducks….

ducks…swooping gulls….

gull…and of course, Mr Grumpy.

heronMy walk then took me over the Ewes Water and onto a track which runs along the top of the banking above the river.

It is an path that I rarely use but it provided me with pictures of an excellent gate…

gate….some luscious looking berries…

berries…and some improbably green moments.

pathhead trackThe track ends above the A7 as it leaves the town to the north.

A7Across the valley, I could see a single tree shining our among the conifers.

Ewes valleyAnd below me, the High Mill Brig which I would cross on my way home.

High Mill BrigThe brig is a handsome single span construction.

High Mill BrigMy walk home along the road was uneventful and I had time to do a little more work on the computer and make a risotto for my tea before Mrs Tootlepedal got home.  She was excited because she had seen an enormous flock of migrating geese grazing at Carstairs from the window of her train.

Instead of going to Carlisle in the evening to play recorders, Roy and Susan came to Wauchope Cottage and we were joined by Sue, an ex member of the group for an evening of quartets.  We played a varied selection from J S Bach to Whistling Rufus and enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Over a cup of tea after playing, Sue told us of her adventures in buying and fitting out a container as a garden room.  The container is being delivered this week and the whole thing sounds very interesting.  I am hoping that she will send me a picture or two as the project develops.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull.

flying gull

Drop outing

Today’s guest picture shows a good looking bike path that my brother discovered at Carsington Water in Derbyshire.

Carsington waterWe had another dry and mostly sunny day today but the northerly air meant that the temperature only just got into double figures and if you were out of the sun, it was quite chilly.

The early morning mist had just about dispersed as I walked across the suspension bridge….

suspension bridge view…on my way to spend a couple of hours in the information hub on the High Street.  It is being opened for two hours in the morning during the winter months and this was my first go under the new timetable.  I wasn’t expecting much business but I had two people in wanting to spend money buying the Langholm Walks booklet so that was very satisfactory.

I was also visited by Dropscone on his way to a gold lesson in Carlisle and my flute pupil Luke’s grandfather who was killing time so I didn’t have time to get bored.

When I got home, I put some pellets in the lawn bird feeder and stood back to await developments.


A starling was the first on the scene, open mouthed with excitement.


it was soon engulfed.  Notice the starling standing on another one in the centre of the picture.

The starlings were soon superseded by jackdaws.

jackdawsThe allure of the pink pellets is considerable.  Later in the day, a rook turned up….

rook…but all the pellets were gone.

On the traditional feeder, a good number of greenfinches turned up today.

greenfinchesThey were in competition with goldfinches and chaffinches for space.

greenfinches and chaffinchesAt one time, they took up so many of the perches that a chaffinch had to stand on a greenfinch and reach over to get some seed.

greenfinchesAfter lunch, I made a start on cutting down our apple tree.  I lopped off three or four branches and Mrs Tootlepedal cut them up neatly and fed the smaller parts through the shredder, made some kindlers and left me with some logs to saw.

Then Dropscone appeared with his slow bike and I got my slow bike out and we went for a slow bike ride.  After some time off the bike, this was Dropscone’s first ride for a while and he was going steadily to give a rather stiff knee a chance to loosen up.

We went round the same fourteen mile loop that I had recently gone on with Mrs Tootlepedal.  On that occasion we had seen a feast of fungus but they had pretty well all gone by the time we went past today.


A lovely road on a beautiful day but a disappointing fungus site.

There was a chilly wind so it was lucky that the sun was out or we might have not have enjoyed ourselves very much.  I stopped to take a picture as we dropped back down towards the Wauchope and the very sharp eyed may just be able to make a red dot in the distance.  That was Dropscone making the most of the downhill.

BlochWe enjoyed a cup of tea and a slice of Selkirk bannock when we got back.

I should mention that I didn’t need to go for a bike ride to see a fungus because our drying green was covered with them today.

drying green fungusIt was such a nice day that after our cup of tea,  I suggested a walk to look at the Duchess Bridge to Mrs Tootlepedal and she decided to come and see what was being done to it.  I had heard that work was in progress there.  We hadn’t gone far when a few drops of rain persuaded her that the washing, which was hanging on the line, was at risk.  She didn’t believe my assurance that it would come to nothing so she went back and I went on.

They have been painting the Duchess Bridge and it looks very smart.

Duchess BridgeIt had a notice up saying that it was closed but it didn’t look very shut so I crossed it and met Mrs Tootlepedal on the other side.  She had cycled from home, having taken the washing in.

Fortunately I had been right about the weather and we were able to cycle and walk home together in sunshine.  The early evening light made everything look particularly lovely.

The Lodge walks

The Lodge Walks


The trees along the Lodge walks seen from the Castleholm


Young trees beside the river

Even the car park at the Kilngreen looked inviting.

KilngreenThe rest of the day was given over to music.  First my flute pupil Luke arrived for his lesson.  He continues to show that he has mastered the art of counting and playing at the same time whihc means that we get get much more practice done in the same time.  He is coming on well.

Then, after a quick meal, I went out to play trios with Isabel and Mike and although we all complained of feeling tired, we had an excellent evening of music.

The flying bid of the day is a jackdaw.


Today’s guest picture shows a picturesque view of the Roxburghe golf course.  It was sent to me by Dropscone, who was organising a two day match play tournament there.

RoxburgheThe jet stream continues to do fine work in fending off any depressing weather from America and we enjoyed another quiet and dry day today.  There was no sun and the wind was coming from the north east so it wasn’t as warm as I might have hoped when I set out on my fairly speedy bike for a gentle spin while Mrs Tootlepedal was singing with the church choir.

Before I left, I had a look out of the kitchen window and was pleased to see a robin in the plum tree.

robinThey have been scarce lately and I was beginning to wonder whether the local cats had either eaten them all or scared them out of the garden.

The robin was soon replaced by quite a gang of goldfinches.


The force of their disapproval blew the chaffinch away

I put some pellets out in the new feeder on the lawn and it only took a moment for the jackdaws to spot them.


No intention of doing any ‘fair sharing’ here.

There was a good deal of excitement.

jackdawIt’s always the pink pellets that go first….

jackdaw…though some of the birds managed to fit in some football heading practice.

jackdawThe starlings didn’t get a look in and could only express their disappointment from a safe distance.

starlingIn view of the wind direction when I set off on my bike, I decided to go north up the hill to Mosspaul and get the benefit of it behind me as I swooped back down to Langholm.  I stopped on the outskirts of town to capture the brilliance of this tree on the edge of our small industrial estate.

Whitshiels treeThen I pedalled cheerfully uphill and into a slightly hindering crosswind, looking forward to my easy trip back….but the wind played me false and shifted round just enough to be across and slightly against me on the way back too.  However, it wasn’t anything like strong enough to spoil my enjoyment of the twenty mile ride.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden and I walked round it too.  The poppies are back to full strength after the recent couple of rainy days and are looking as perky as ever.

poppiesThis one was our favourite today.

poppyThe bee numbers have dropped a lot but there are still some butterflies to be seen.

red admiralThe tall cosmos have decided that it is all right to come out after all and are giving us a good late show.

cosmosThere were still plenty of goldfinches about….

goldfinches…and the chaffinches had to work hard to find a place at the feeder.

goldfinches and chaffinchesSome chaffinches waited patiently in the plum tree for the goldfinches to go.

chaffinches in plum treeAfter lunch, I burned four CDs with practice music for one of our choir songs, two for altos and two for tenors and when I got to the choir later on, I gave them to four of my singing neighbours to see if they thought that they were useful.  If they get approval, I will copy some more out.

Aldi have conveniently opened a store very near our rehearsal venue so we popped in there on our way to the choir once again.  This may become a habit.  On this occasion, we bought a new cycling top suitable for the forthcoming colder weather for me and a variety of cans of beans for the store cupboard among other prosaic items.

The choir practice was vigorous and painstaking as we are beginning to work hard both on being better singers and preparing material for two contests next year.  It was very satisfying though and interesting to see how a small change in volume in just one of the parts at a crucial moment can make a big difference to how a song sounds.

Luckily we had some nutritious left overs from last night’s meal ready for our tea when we got home so we were able to spend a quiet evening recovering our strength.

The flying bird of the day is one of the jackdaws making off with a pellet.



Today”s guest picture is another study of a London Park pond by my sister Mary.  This is in the St Mary’s Garden  in Regent’s Park.

St Mary's Garden, Regent's Park 021Mrs Tootlepedal spent the morning preparing food for an evening meal and  I did my best not to be too much of a nuisance.

I put some food out for the starlings and they fell upon it with extreme energy.

starlingsAfter the initial rush, there was time for some solo appearances.

starlingsA blackbird wondered what all the fuss was about…

blackbird…while a blue tit was grateful that the starlings had left the covered feeder in peace.

blue titI had time for a quick look through the kitchen window before lunch…

chaffinch…and then I set off for stage three of the saddle testing programme.  This involved a thirty two mile circular tour with a bit of climbing at the start and a gentle finish.  The route plan meant that a light wind helped over the hills but hindered my way back.  In spite of having to pedal the last 15 miles into the wind, the new saddle didn’t pose too many problems but I was quite pleased to find an excuse stop and ease things off after half way.

flaming tree

A flaming tree caught my eye near Kirtlebridge

And I stopped on the Hollows Bridge to look up the river….

Hollows Bridge…and down.

Hollows BridgeI had a last stop to look at river at Broomholm….

Esk…before getting home.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s preparations were so complete that I had nothing to do and I took a walk round the garden…


The nerines are looking charming…

golden syllabub

…and the Golden Syllabub is trying its best, though looking a little downhearted


…and the poppies are looking good even when they are a bit part worn

We had four guests for our evening meal and they provided excellent company with a range of lively discussions of a wide variety of topics so I for one really enjoyed the evening.

One half of our guests was made up of my cello playing friend Mike and his wife.  He is a wood turner and brought us a gift of a wooden bowl which he had made from a chunk of our old front gate post.  The post was removed when the new wall was built and part of it has now returned in this elegant shape.

Mike's bowlIs that a cork from a bottle of fizzy wine? Yes.

The other half of our guests were my friend Bruce and his wife.  They had passed me in their car earlier in the day, after an exciting visit to the dump near Annan.  As I was struggling into the wind on my way back home at the time, they hadn’t been very impressed by my pedalling speed.  I wasn’t very impressed by it myself.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, checking for oncoming traffic.


Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my flute pupil Luke.  He has been on a trip to Belgium.

menin gateThe picture is of the Menin Gate with his year group standing in front.   He was touched to find the name of his great great uncle Private George Bell’s name on it. George lived at the cottage at the top of Callister with his parents, 13 brothers and sisters. He died in battle with the Cameron highlanders.

As it happened I cycled over Callister and past that cottage today.

Our spell of good autumnal weather continued and if it goes on much longer, the bad memories of the really miserable spring and summer weather may begin to fade.

I am subject to some trivial but niggling aches and pains so after breakfast, when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to read extracts for the newspaper for the blind, I settled into a warm bath in an effort to smooth some of the aches away.

I rose gracefully out of the water in time to greet Dropscone, who had arrived bearing the traditional Friday treacle scones.  These went down well with the coffee.  We were observed by a great tit on the feeder pole outside the kitchen window.

great titDropscone went off to play golf and I walked round the garden.  (The treacle scones must have been good because I got a message from Dropscone later in the day to say that he had got a hole in one at the ninth.)

Although it was a warm and calm day, for the most part the sun wasn’t out so the sunflowers had to provided what sunshine they could.

sunflowersThe poppies have proved quite resilient and are making a comeback after the recent heavy rain.

poppies and crocosmia

Finally this is the effect that Mrs Tootlepedal had hoped for earlier in the year

Here is the poppy of the day.

poppyWe are having visitors tomorrow so there was some cooking and tidying up to be done and soon it was time for lunch.  A good variety of birds was to be seen enjoying their lunch while we had our soup, bread and cheese.

goldfinch, coal tit and chaffinch

Goldfinches, coal tit and chaffinch

Straight after lunch, I got the fairly speedy bike out and gave the new saddle another try.  I went about the same distance as yesterday but threw in a bit more climbing which always tests a saddle’s comfort.  Once again, the new saddle and I got on well but I didn’t stop to take pictures on my way as I was concentrating on keeping a good posture on the bike and pedalling as steadily as possible.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been hard at work, kindly made me a cup of tea and then I mowed the greenhouse grass and had another walk round the garden.  I got my macro lens out and tried to put some tips that I had learned from a helpful member at our last camera club meeting to good use.


Not the most attractive subject but sharp from stem to stern


The bee is so woolly that it is hard to tell how sharp the picture is.

(For those interested, the tip was to use a F-stop at 20 or over.)

I pointed the camera at a flower or two as well.


The perennial nasturtium shows off a fine selection of coloured balls


Two poppies

japanese anemone and rudbeckia

Japanese anemone and rudbeckia

Lilian Austin is still putting out more flowers.

Lilian AustinThe Virginia creeper is on fire….

Virginia creeper…but it was not too hot for a moth (it may be a hawk moth but I am not sure).mothThe covered feeder is doing brisk business with several blue tits and occasional great tits and coal tits.

blue tit and great titBy and large, the finches leave it alone although I did see a goldfinch visiting it today in a rare sunny moment.

goldfinchI am not seeing many robins and dunnocks at present, possibly because they like to perch on low shrubs and the garden is haunted by predatory cats but I did see one dunnock today.


It will have to be on its guard if it is to survive.

I am putting in a rather fuzzy picture of a blue tit just because I enjoyed the design so much.

blue titWe had an apple pie made from our own apples as a pudding at tea time and it tasted very good.  The espalier apples have come through the wet and cool summer very well but the tree has done so badly that Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is for the chop.  It is too tall for us to pick fruit safely any more and the fruit is liable to canker so we won’t miss it much.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and as both Alison and I have been practising, it was very satisfactory to find that we had both got better at playing our Telemann Partita.  Sometimes I practice and seem to get worse so this was very cheering.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch signalling a sharp right turn as it approaches the feeder.


Saddle up

Today’s guest picture shows a bridge on the Trent and Mersey Canal which was visited today by my brother Andrew.

Looking back at the same bridgeI started my day with a visit to the doctor to discuss statins.  After stopping taking them a few months ago, I was persuaded back onto them and I was hoping that a recent test would show that they were having no effect so that I could stop taking them again.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which  way you look at it, they have proved to be very effective and my cholesterol is now in a happy place. A bit of negotiation has got me onto a reduced intake so both the doctor and I were reasonable content with the outcome.

I took a picture of some of the decorative cobwebs which festoon the suspension bridge on my way to the health centre.

suspension bridgeWhen I got home, I celebrated by knocking out a batch of eight drop scones to share with Sandy when he came round for coffee after filling the Moorland bird feeders.  Although they were obviously not up to the standard of the great Dropscone himself, they can’t have been too bad, because we ate them all between us.

When Sandy left, I wandered round the garden for a while.  Butterflies were sunning themselves.

butterfliesFlowers were looking quite cheerful.

poppy and nasturtiumAnd a starling was doing some heavy grooming on the wire at the end of the house.

starlingThen I went in and put a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database and as a result found myself pretty well on schedule to keep up with the data miners.  Things were going well so I settled down to the crossword and an early lunch.

After lunch I got the fairly speedy bike out.

When I went to get it back from the bike shop yesterday, I purchased a new saddle while I was there.  This is always a tricky business as the saddle is a thing that can bring misery to a cycle ride if it doesn’t fit.  I had hoped to go for a long ride today as the weather was fine and the wind light but the bike mechanic had impressed upon me the importance of running the new saddle in gently.

I mentally whittled my proposed 60 mile ride down to 40….and then to 30…and finally a bit of good sense kicked in and I went for a modest 20 mile ride up and down the fairly flat road to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back three times.

I started off very gingerly for the first lap but gradually my confidence grew as the saddle gave me no trouble and by the third lap, I was going at a good speed.  These are early days though and it will take a second and third ride to find out if the saddle really will suit.

Here is a portrait of the saddle on the fairly speedy bike.

new saddleThe man in the bike shop was rather shocked that I should consider having a white saddle on a black bike and I agree that it isn’t very stylish.  However there are two points to consider – one, he didn’t have a black saddle in this model and two, I will now be able to recognise my bike quite easily in a crowd….and as a bonus, no discerning bike thief would be seen dead on such a mismatch.

When I got off the bike, I rang Sandy and suggested a walk and when he came down, he said he would like to find some fungi.  I told him that I knew just the place and we set off to walk the couple of miles to the Becks road and back by Gaskells.

There were fungi.

fungiThe track along the fields was a delight.

Meikleholm trackWhen we got to the woods, we could hardly move for fungi.

fungiOf every sort.

fungiEven deep in the darkest spots, there was still fungus and mould to be seen.

fungiWe didn’t neglect the lichens.

lichenWe came out of the other side of the woods into the sunshine…

Hallcrofts…and enjoyed the view of Whita.

WhitaWe couldn’t pass the Auld Stane Brig without a snap.

Auld Stane BrigAnd there was still more fungus to admire as we came home along gaskells.

fungusWe ate a few blackberries to keep our strength up as we walked along and got home in very good spirits, having enjoyed a short autumn walk in perfect weather.

Sandy went off and I had another walk round the garden. My favourite poppy had looked a bit head down and depressed in the morning but the sunny afternoon had perked it up a lot.

poppyThe main question though was what would happen when  30 starlings….

starlings…noticed that I had put some pellets in the new feeder.

The answer was starling frenzy….

starling frenzy…followed by a starling shouting match.

starling sandwichMrs Tootlepedal was away in Edinburgh visiting Matilda so I cooked myself a fillet of haddock for my tea in her absence.  When she returned, she had to go out again almost immediately, this time to a WRI meeting and I waited for a short while before Sandy reappeared and we went off to the Archive Centre.

Sandy did some painstaking searching through microfiches for the year 1930 to answer a query from a correspondent while I put another week and a half of the index into the database.  After a suitable refreshment in the Eskdale, it was finally time for a little rest.

The flying bird of the day is a horizontal chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

A break

Today’s guest picture shows a swan anxiously supervising her brood.  She is anxious no doubt because, as my sister Mary tells me, the cygnets are swimming in the dogs’ bathing pond on Parliament Hill Fields.

Proud mother keeping a careful eye out in the dogs bathing pond, Parliament Hill FieldsA dull and rainy morning here was brightened by the appearance of Sandy on a flying visit, followed by Dropscone bringing some quality scones for coffee time.  After coffee, I had to pay a visit to the Health Centre for a routine matter and by the time that I got back, the weather began to look a little brighter.

I took a couple of pictures in the gloomiest part of the morning for illustrative purposes only.  The first shows one of our infrequent greenfinch visitors…

greenfinch…and the second shows a robin who will probably not appear on a Christmas card.

ranting robin

For lovers of Robert Burns, I can point out that this is obviously the famous rantin’ Robin

The starlings show tenacity when it comes to getting food from inconvenient feeders.

starlingstarlingsOver lunchtime, I was able to watch a selection of visitors to the covered feeder.

blue titgreat titcoal titThe better weather let me walk round the garden.  The poppies had not recovered from the rain….

poppies and salvia…but the salvia shrugs it off.  The dahlias only need a short spell of warmth to bring out a good display.

dahliasTwo pink flowers have come to cheer us up.

nerines and Michaelmas daisies

A Nerine and tiny Michaelmas daisies

After lunch, the weather seemed to be set fair for a while, in spite of the weather forecast assuring us that there was heavy rain in the area so Mrs Tootlepedal and I took our courage and two umbrellas in our hands and set out to walk down the Esk to Skippers Bridge and back along the far bank.

Mrs Tootlepedal was acting as chief fungus spotter and she did a good job, seeing one crop on the way out and another on the way back.


Some of the white ones were as big as dinner plates

I kept an eye out for berries.

brambles and honeysuckle

Brambles and honeysuckle

The recent rain followed by warmer temperatures has perked up the brambles quite a bit.

Mostly though, I was looking for scenes that showed the river off to advantage.

Esk from Skippers Bridge

The Esk from Skippers Bridge, looking south

The distillery from the bank of the Esk

The distillery from the bank of the river below above the bridge


Looking across the river from the Dyehouse path

As we walked along the path back towards the town, we passed two foreign invaders.

A Russian vine and Japanese knotweed

A Russian vine and Japanese knotweed

The Russian vine is vigorous but controllable and is used here to help to disguise our sewage works,  The Japanese Knotweed is very vigorous and totally uncontrollable and is spreading along the river bank in spite of some efforts to keep it down.  You can see it in the river view above.  It upsets Mrs Tootlepedal to see its uncontrolled spread.

suspension bridge view

The view from the suspension bridge when we were almost home.

We timed our walk to perfection as it started to rain just as we got back to the house.  The rain didn’t last long though and by the time that we went to sing in our Langholm choir after tea, it was a beautiful evening.

Our choir practice was busy and hard work, as our new conductor doesn’t believe in easing us into a piece but charges in at full tilt, leaving us to follow behind as best we may.  Still, it’s fun even if we sing a lot of wrong notes. I needed a nice cup of tea and a snack to recover when I got home.

A traditional chaffinch is flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch


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