A round trip

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He has been paying more attention to his garden in the lockdown and it is looking good. He likes the way that his arch not only provides a hanging point for his flower baskets but frames his big tomato plants too.

We didn’t pay much attention to our garden here this morning, as it was hard to see it through the drifting drizzle that was forecast to last all day. Under the circumstances, a trip to England, where the forecast was much better, seemed like a good idea.

When we took Venetia to see Hadrian’s Wall a few days ago, we had intended to come home by a circular route giving us a 100 mile round trip. In the event, we failed to get a free charging point at the car park to work, got a bit timid about range, and came back from the wall by the way we had come although we had plenty of power left in the battery. Today, we determined to go the whole way just to persuade ourselves that we can trust the battery meter in the car.

The forecasters proved to be on the ball, and by the time that we had got twenty miles from home, the drizzle had cleared up and it had turned into a decent day, though with no sign of the sun. I had done some research and loaded an app onto my phone to deal with the car charger at the car park but we went to a different car park on this occasion, six miles further down the road. It came as a big surprise to find that the charger there was provided by a different company and my app was of no use.

There was a lady in a Tesla charging at the double socket, and when we plugged into the second socket, she got out of her car and kindly told us that our socket wasn’t working, unplugged her car and checked while we plugged ours in to her socket. By good fortune, the card we use for charging in Scotland worked with this charger and soon the Zoe was humming gently as she topped up her battery.

We went off to the cafe and had lattes and toasted tea cakes (but with no humming). Then we had time for a walk after coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal led the way up a fine paved path . . .

. . . leading to a road up a hill past a handsome holiday cottage . .

…until we came to the Wall.

We could have followed that exciting paved path up the steep hill near the edge of the crag but we chose the route in the other direction beside what is left of the wall . . .

. . . and took the easier climb to the top of a grassy hill.

Looking along the line of the wall, it was clear that the Romans had chosen to put it on top of the escarpment whenever they could to add extra height to an already imposing structure.

There was a grand view south from the top of the hill.

If the Roman Wall isn’t your thing, there are any amount of more modern dry stone dykes on all sides.

From the top of the hill, we walked back down to the car, passing clover and ‘snow in summer’ on the way.

We unplugged the car and found that the hour we had spent in the cafe and on our walk had been exactly enough to fill the battery back up to where it had been when we set out. As the charging is free in an attempt to attract electric vehicle owners to visit the area, this was very satisfactory indeed.

With both occupants and the car fully refreshed, we headed onwards towards Bellingham and Kielder Water, a large reservoir surrounded by forests. It was a lovely drive but as this meant going north, in the end we found ourselves back in the drizzle that we had left in Langholm.

As a scenic treat, the reservoir fell some way short of ideal . . .

. . . and even if the ferry across the Water had been running . . .

. . . I don’t thank that we would have been tempted to go on board.

We did see ragged robin beside the shore and where there is ragged robin, there is often an orchid too.

There was no sit-in facility at the cafe at the visitor centre, and as there were a lot of midges about, we were happy to drink a cup of hot chocolate and move on before we got bitten to death.

It got progressively wetter and gloomier as we headed back to Scotland but we stopped at a little nest of road and railway bridges just after we crossed the border.

The railway is long closed and was flooded when the reservoir was created.

We had only topped up the car battery with the 40 miles to see if we could use the charging point, not because it was needed, and when we got home after our 100 mile journey, we still had over 120 miles left on the meter. This was very encouraging, and I hope that it will make us more confident about undertaking longer journeys in the car in the future.

It was still drizzling when w e got back, but we had a quick walk round the garden before having a cup of tea.

The Roseraie de l’Hay has come out but the damp weather made it need it a helping hand to hold its head up for the photographer.

I took a few more pictures . . .

. . . filled the feeder, and then went into to watch the birds from inside.

A jackdaw . . .

. . . and a blackbird were concentrating hard . . .

. . . while the sparrows were busy as ever.

In the evening, we watched the final of the Great British Sewing Bee while the evening sky outside took a dramatic turn with a belated appearance of some sunshine.

Owing to gloomy weather and lack of time, the flying bird of the day is a slightly fuzzy sparrow . . .

. . . but the flower of the day is much zingier in spite of the rain.

Footnote A: The Zoe keeps a check on what we are doing, and it told me today that we are currently averaging 4.4 miles for a kWh of electricity. It costs us 17.5p a kWh to charge the car at home so that makes our ‘fuel’ cost about 4p per mile.

Footnote B: WordPress sent me a message to say that is exactly 11 years since I started writing this daily diary. I have missed a few days over the years but I would like to take this opportunity to thank regular readers, some who were there right at the start for their forbearance and patience in wading through the literally millions of words and thousands of pictures, and particularly those kind people who take the time and trouble to add their invaluable comments to the posts. Here’s to the next eleven years, if spared.


Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s Highland holiday where she saw two curlews in a field. I am envious because although I quite often hear curlews, I very rarely see one, let alone two.

Today’s post opens with a picture from yesterday, taken after the blog had been put to bed.

We had another cool, grey morning, but the wind was less boisterous than it has been, so I contemplated a morning cycle ride.

In the end, as I couldn’t decide on an optimum route, I did a lot of contemplating and not much cycling for a considerable amount if time. While I was pondering, I put out some mealworms and watched the young sparrows give them a try . . .

. . . noted a young blackbird looking rather put out about being left to find its own food . . .

. . . wandered around the garden and got excited by a new iris . . .

. . . and the developing orange hawkweed mini meadow . . .

. . . and some leaning lupins.

Then I breathed in the scent of two mock oranges . . .

. . . and went back inside to have a slice of bread and marmalade. It was now quite a time since breakfast.

I made a final check on the birds and found that there had been an invasion of jackdaws . . .

. . . with two discussing the declining quality of bird food these days . . .

. . . and finally I made up my mind on a route and set off just before coffee time.

The forecast had suggested a south west wind, getting stronger as they day went on, so my plan was to head south west for a time and then come back with this stronger wind now behind me.

I went off down the main road but there was a lot of traffic, some of it not too fussy about leaving a safe distance when passing a cyclist, so I took the bike path and the old road through Canonbie and joined the main road again at the bottom of the by-pass.

The flow of traffic had not reduced and the manners of the drivers had not, so I turned off the main road at the first opportunity and took to quieter back roads instead.

This gave me the chance to stop and look at the verges.

A garden escape caught my eye . . .

. . . and the grass has been growing vigorously.

There is a lot of red clover about. (The yellow flowers in the background are probably meadow vetchling.)

I wiggled my way across country until I found myself at the border with England on the old road from Gretna Green. I was not very impressed by the new Welcome to Scotland structure there. It looked somewhat cheap, especially with a unwelcoming message beside it. Still there was a fine bush of wild roses beside it.

The old bridge is now blocked off and I took a picture of it from the new and unattractive bridge which has been built beside it.

I headed down into England on the relief road beside the motorway. This is quite a new road and when they constructed it, they did not stint on the provision of shrubs and flowers. The road was lined with daisies . . .

. . . and there were lots more roses too.

I stopped when I got to the River Eden near Rockcliffe to have a honey sandwich and half a banana.

It was very peaceful beside the river, sheltered from the wind.

I could see, swans, ducks and goosanders.

I liked the way that the swans were trying not to get their feet wet.

I noticed a very pretty pink flower on the bank of the river. It may be sea thrift.

I got back on track and turned to go across country to the west, with the wind now helping me. I got to the Brampton-Longtown road without stopping for any more pictures and then checked my mileage. It appeared that if I went straight up the main roads, I would get back to Langholm exactly on 50 miles. This seemed like a good distance for a ride so I did that.

Stopping to take interesting pictures on fairly busy main roads is not easy and the only one that I took in my last 15 miles was of the buttercups lining the Canonbie by-pass.

My calculations proved to be pretty accurate and the bike computer rolled over the fifty mile mark just before I arrived at our house. And the wind had indeed helped me on my way back. This was very satisfactory all round.

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden so I had a walk round.

We have pretty roses of our own out . . .

. . . and there is no shortage of bright red flowers.

I found two more hostas to add to the ones that I took yesterday . . .

. . . and reckoned that we are pretty lucky that the slugs are leaving them alone at the moment.

I filled the bird feeder and checked for visitors.

A greenfinch was one of the first to arrive.

We watched some entertaining horse racing from Ascot, and between races, I cooked a lamb stew.

The racing went for a long time and when it was finished, it was time to put a few potatoes on to go with the stew.

As thinking about cycling, actual cycling and recovering from cycling took up such a large part of the day, I didn’t have time to get a good flying bird and this evening sparrow was the best that I could manage.

Good timing

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. He looked out to sea and saw a family of eider ducks swimming in the distance.

We had another cool, grey day here with more brisk winds and temperatures only reaching 15°C at midday. It made a sharp contrast with my sisters in London who were sweltering with temperatures in the high twenties.

I had a stroll round the garden after breakfast, while Mrs Tootlepedal was doing some proper gardening. The hostas are still doing well and we have one with light green leaves with dark edges . . .

…and one with dark green leaves with light edges.

You can see from the leaves that it had rained overnight and this was very welcome.

I went out to look at the poppies behind the house and got distracted by our neighbour Liz’s fine yellow irises on the other side of the bridge.

Near the front gate, a euphorbia is offering a fine show of claws.

The melancholy thistles in the back border are looking uncommonly cheerful and there are more waiting to come out very soon.

(I had a look on the internet and it tells me that they got their name from being used to treat melancholia in times past.)

Spireas are perking up after a very quiet time in the cold spring. Some flowers are appearing on the bridal wreath spirea . . .

. . . and the foliage on its neighbour is attractive.

We had coffee indoors with Margaret as the wind was very unfriendly, and then I paid a visit to the shop for supplies.

I nearly did something useful in the morning, but somehow lunchtime came round before I actually did it.

After lunch, I watched the birds for a while from inside. The sparrows were having a lot of fun.

Then I went outside to sit on the bench by the kitchen window to get a different angle on proceedings. Birds obligingly posed for me.

When I went back in, a greenfinch joined the gallery.

Without thinking about anything very much, I got changed and went out for a cycle ride in the brisk breeze. This turned out to be a good moment for a cycle ride for two reasons. Firstly, the wind wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared and the the afternoon was warmer than the morning, and secondly, I missed Scotland’s first match in the European football championship. I hadn’t deliberately meant to miss the game, but it hadn’t aroused any enthusiasm in me as I found the preparatory press coverage exceedingly overblown. As they lost the game 2-0, I was far better off in the open air on my bike getting happy, than sunk on a sofa getting depressed.

I went round the Solwaybank windfarm loop, and it took me a long time to cover the eight miles to get to the far end of the loop, battling into the breeze and going over Callister. The rest of the twenty mile trip was much kinder.

Having kept my head well down as I was cycling into the wind, I was able to lift it up as I passed the field where the willows were recently cropped. New growth is already well under way.

This is a quick turnaround crop. It looked like this when I passed it in March this year.

I whizzed along past the windfarm and stopped on the road through the trees to record a fine crop of yellow rattle along the roadside . . .

. . . and admire an old oak on the other side of the road . . .

When you can find wild flowers and not white lines in the middle of a road, you know that you are definitely out in the country . . .

. . . but it is generally a well looked after road . . .

. . . and it is always a pleasure to cycle along it.

Having battled the breeze on the outward trip, I did the last five miles home in 17 minutes and arrived back in a very good mood. Even the news of the poor result in the football couldn’t dampen my spirits.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden planting out dahlias when I got back, so I had a wander about and spotted a shy poppy peeking out of the greenhouse door to check what life in the real world was like.

The garden is full of birds and their young and we enjoyed watching a blackbird showing its youngster how to get a drink from the pond. The youngster looked most put out when its parent moved on.

The active day finished with a sibling zoom as I didn’t go to play trios in the evening evening because unfortunately our pianist had had too much on her plate during the day to be able to play at night.

The flying birds of the day are a whirling swirl of sparrows (or perhaps a swirling whirl) . . .

. . . and the flowers of the day are a bunch of chives making a lovely colour combination with their stems.

A song and a stroll

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. One of his dogs is demonstrating excellent catching skills.

We had a generally grey and rather chilly day for the time of year today, but the sun was shining for a while as we cycled to church to sing in the choir. The hymns, which were all settings of psalms today, were a pleasure to sing and our small choir even managed a simple anthem so we cycled home with the sense of a job well done.

I caught the enormous poppies on the back wall while the sun was still shining. More come out every day.

We joined Liz in her garden for coffee with Ken and Margaret, and had the benefit of a sheltered spot against the brisk wind. This came in handy when the sun went in and there was even a hint of a very faint raindrop or two. Our week of warm and sunny weather at the beginning of the month is beginning to fade from memory.

Still, it was quite possible to work comfortably in the garden, so after coffee Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to planting out sunflowers and I wandered about.

Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased by how healthy her Sweet Williams are looking, and I am pleased that they have just started to flower.

There is much to enjoy in the garden at the moment.

I like looking closely at lupins.

I like the geometry of nature.

I like the scent of the philadelphus.

I like the thought of eating our home produce.

I like waiting for the this flower to get some colour.

And I like the colour of the blue poppies.

I have been banned from dead heading the blue poppies because Mrs Tootlepedal wants to collect seed so that we can have more blue poppies. I have also been banned from dead heading the Welsh and Icelandic poppies. If I dead head them regularly, we got a lot more flowers, but on the other hand, if I do it too zealously, we won’t get flowers next year. Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that we might be short of Shirley poppies this year because I was too quick with the secateurs last year and she is probably right.

I looked at the birds after lunch and noticed a sparrow very close to the window.

It was part of a gang of cut-throat sparrows who were apparently pecking the buds on the cotoneaster under the window. I hope that they leave some as I like the colour of the berries later in the year.

There are young birds about, both blackbirds . . .

. . . and sparrows.

I had time for a short walk after lunch before my virtual choir practice so I went round Gaskell’s and Easton’s Walks.

I was thinking of photographing some dog’s tooth peltigera lichen, but when I went to brush away a twig which was spoiling my picture, it ran away. I just had time to realise that my twig was a small lizard before it disappeared. I didn’t get a picture of it and I forgot to take the lichen. I must learn to look more carefully and not make assumptions.

I couldn’t miss some slow worms (with additional ants) when I lifted up the bit of roofing felt under which they like to shelter.

The ivy leafed toadflax on the wall at Pool Corner is amazing.

If I had stopped to take pictures of everything that I saw, I still wouldn’t be home now! As it was, I took about 50 pictures on my walk, including foxglove, campion, hawkbit and Herb Robert.

The ajuga or bugle weed was very prominent beside the path on Gaskell’s . . .

. . . and although it was a grey afternoon, the hawthorns once again brightened up the view.

A lot of white clover has come out to join the red variety.

In the end, I think that my favourite wild flower picture from the walk was this one of two geraniums.

Gaskell’sWalk is looking very bosky at the moment.

When I got to the park, having walked back along the river, I found a rabbit pretending that it wasn’t there . . .

. . . and some nice colour too.

I got home in good time for my virtual choir practice and enjoyed a lot of singing, as far as it is possible to enjoy virtual choir singing.

I had thought of sneaking a short cycle ride in after choir, but it was still grey, windy and generally not very tempting to a cyclist who was slightly tired already. I resolved to do something useful instead and trimmed the hedge along the road.

Mrs Tootlepedal came out to help me get it finished neatly, and the end result was satisfactory without being inch perfect.

My knee was quite grateful that I hadn’t gone cycling so that was a good decision.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin lining up an innocent sparrow for a good kicking.

Nothing doing

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia. I think this must have been a stopping point on her journey north. The offer of tea and cakes seems attractive.

We had a better day here, slightly warmer and slightly less windy. As the sun often came out, it was much more pleasant in the garden too. This was lucky, as I decided to pay some attention to the fact that I was feeling a bit tired and I didn’t leave the house and garden all day. If you don’t like garden flowers and birds, this is not a post for you.

When we checked the trail camera, we were very pleased to find a hedgehog still pottering about in the middle of the night.

We hope it is our mother from the garage, but we will have to wait to see if any hoglets appear.

Inside the house in the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had had a cheerful WhatsApp video call with our granddaughter Evie who was exactly twenty three months old today. Outside in the garden, we had an equally cheerful cup of coffee and a chat with our neighbours Margaret, Liz and Ken. Ken was telling us that he had cycled 60 miles in the brisk wind yesterday. As he is the same age as me and as I thought that it was quite windy enough when I did my twenty miles yesterday, I take my hat off to his determination and staying power.

When I wasn’t chatting online and off, I wandered round the garden taking pictures, and doing occasional small tasks while Mrs Tootlepedal worked at the serious stuff.

In the greenhouse, she pointed out the developing tomato flowers to me.

They look good, but they are nothing compared to an opium poppy which seeded itself in the greenhouse uninvited, but which Mrs Tootlepedal has allowed to develop.

It has developed well!

Out in the garden, I found that a pale astrantia has arrived to join the red one.

I then discovered that Mrs Tootlepedal has been nurturing another one in her cold frame. It has done very well too.

They are lovely flowers, each one a miniature garden in itself.

A bright red geum has come to join the yellow and pink ones already out.

The yellow rattle on the drying green, part of Mrs Tootlepedal’s proposed mini meadow, is getting stronger every day.

She has thrown down some other wild flower seeds but they are not showing yet, and we may have to wait until next year for better results with them.

Foxgloves are beginning to pop up all over the garden . . .

. . . and a melancholy thistle has appeared in the back border among the cow parsley.

We have had a rosa Moyesii near the road hedge for some time. Mrs Tootlepedal took some offshoots from it and planted them in the back border where they are making progress.

There were a few more bees and other buzzers about today but not nearly as many as we would like . . .

. . . and I noticed a letter in the paper today from another a gardener who was complaining that they have no bees in their garden at all. It would be nice to think that the government thought that this was a problem worth worrying about, but I am not confident that they do.

We went in for lunch and I took a moment to check on the birds. Sparrows were very much in evidence among the siskins . . .

. . . coming in from . . .

. . . all sides.

The picture below gives a good idea of the difference in size between sparrows and siskins, but note that the siskin is still airily waving the sparrow away.

After lunch we went back out into the garden where I took a picture of a nectaroscordum siculum . . .

. . . which I find is also known as honey garlic. Since nectar means honey and scordum means garlic, this should not have come as a surprise to me, but it did.

Among the ‘wilder’ elements in the garden, orange hawkweed is just coming into its own, and there should soon be a small sea of orange in the garden . . .

. . . flecked with vetch.

Irises are also turning up all over the place.

I continued to do small tasks until I got the hover mower out and mowed the drying green, greenhouse and vegetable garden areas.

After this, I found that I need a sit down and a snooze on a garden chair in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine. Mrs Tootlepedal gardened steadily on while I dozed.

I woke up and we went in for a cup of tea.

I took my camera out into the garden after tea for a last look round. Sparrows and siskins were whirling round the seed feeder . . .

. . . and starlings were sitting all over the holly.

I went to have a look at the heavily pruned fuchsia on the back wall of the house and was happy to find a few flowers out.

There is life in the old bush still.

That was the last active moment of a very quiet but enjoyable day. I hope that it will have recharged my batteries and given my sore knee a chance to recover.

The flying birds of the day are a pair of ducks flying over the garden in the late afternoon..

Those who wish can choose their own flower of the day from the selection above. I liked them all.

Another pedal, another tootle

Today’s guest picture is another from Paul’s Lake District stay. He found an interesting addition to a tree and an explanation.

We had another mostly grey, occasionally sunny, and always windy day here, although it seemed a little bit warmer when we got up. All the same, we had coffee (and treacle scones) indoors when Dropscone came to visit. He has been playing golf as usual, and he told me that he has qualified for the match play stages of the club’s seniors section championship. This achievement sounds impressive, but he also told me that there were only seven players competing for eight places so it wasn’t quite as difficult to qualify as it might have been.

Before coffee, I roamed round the garden taking in the brilliant reds of the rhododendrons and the poppy on the back wall. The wind and rain has given the poppies a bit of a battering. Alliums, the first philadelphus flowers and a pale pink rhododendron provided a contrast in colour.

This was my favourite garden view of the day.

We had been worried that our weigela, the oldest shrub in our garden, might have been fatally damaged by the frosts but it has recovered well and along with the climbing hydrangea is producing flowers. The red astrantia is getting up to full strength and a new geranium has come out.

I looked up from the flowers to see a siskin on a twig . . .

. . . and then looked down again to find a blackbird passing with a beak full of nesting material.

After coffee, I cycled round to the shop for essential supplies (Friday is cream cake day), and on my way back, I nodded to an oystercatcher standing on one leg beside the river.

When I got home, I mowed both the middle and front lawns. I am adopting a no fertiliser and moss killer policy this year, and letting wild flowers grow where they can. I am still going to mow regularly but not frequently to see what happens.

Looking down from above later on, there was just enough grass growing on the front lawn to make a pattern but the damage done by the pecking jackdaws is pretty plain.

Still, it’s fairly green and Mrs Tootlepedal has trimmed the edges so it doesn’t look too bad.

When I had put the mower away, I had leisure to appreciate the first of the yellow Scotch roses . . .

. . . and a very dark iris in the vegetable garden.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal had arranged to talk to Fred, the film maker, about the community buy out and the moor. As I had not been a part of the group that organised the buy out, I went off for a cycle ride to get out of their way.

The seed feeder had been busy with busy with sparrows today. . .

. . . but I had also put out some mealworms, and when I looked down from an upstairs window while I was changing, I saw that they had attracted the attention of a cautious jackdaw. It circled the bowl three times before taking a peck.

It was still rather windy, though a bit less so than yesterday, and as a result, I stuck to my regular Canonbie route in the hope that after a stiff three miles unto the wind, I might find it less of a struggle when I turned at Wauchope Schoolhouse. This proved to be an accurate assessment, and I enjoyed a helping hand for a lot of the rest of the route, both down and then back home again.

The roads are still rich in wild flowers as the verge cutters have stayed their hand, and it is a treat to cycle through country like this . . .

. . . or this . . .

. . . even with the rush of traffic that you can see in the top picture.

I have been keeping an eye out for the dark green patch of plants in the ditch near the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass and I saw that they had got flowers today.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a feeling that they might be poisonous and Google Lens tells me that they could be hemlock. This looked like a good suggestion to me when I checked some pictures. I would be happy if someone could share an opinion on this.

Other wild flowers and grasses lined my route back up to Langholm. . .

. . . and a rhododendron at Irvine House made a splendid picture.

I got home in a very good mood thanks to the friendly wind and the profusion of flowers.

As I walked round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal, who had just finished her interview, we noticed a lone bee on the beans.

The odd weather has left us very short of bees and butterflies at the moment.

In the evening, the day was rounded off by a visit by our friends Mike and Alison. A Friday evening visit from them was a regular occurrence in the good old days before the lockdown, so it was great to feel that a bit of normality had returned. Alison is a pianist, and she and I played flute and recorder duets while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal put the world to rights.

We hope to meet again next week.

The flying bird(s) of the day is/are any of many simultaneous sparrows seen from that upstairs window.

A grey green day

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who found himself looking up at the first Forth road bridge. It looks rather insubstantial from below.

We had a grey day here, with occasional drizzle, no sun and some strong winds. Our friend Venetia paid us a flying visit for a walk round the garden before heading north for her wildlife holiday in Grantown in Spey. It is a long drive so she was wise to leave early.

I had a quiet morning in, watching an early bird trying to persuade its father to give it a worm.

In fact the blackbird was offering its young some mealworms which I had put out.

They were very popular with the sparrows too.

The mealworms are new departure for me on the bird feeding front and we are waiting to see if they attract any new visitors to the garden. I am hoping that the sparrows will be so grateful for the mealworms that they will stop attacking Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetables. Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t have much faith in that idea.

A siskin overshot the seed feeder and looked back to see what he had missed.

While a collared dove perched on the fake tree and looked carefully to see what was ahead.

I found things to do indoors either side of having coffee in the kitchen with Margaret, and then made some lentil soup for lunch. In spite of the depredations of the sparrows, the vegetable garden is now providing salad leaves for lunchtime sandwiches. I had a delicious pate, tomato and lettuce sandwich with my soup.

I had a wander round the garden after lunch and noted raindrops, though not on roses. . .

. . . and then went for a gentle and flat walk. Mrs Tootlepedal, flushed with the success of the drive slab project, levelled off some smaller slabs round the greenhouse while I was out.

I tried not to take too many pictures today and this first one comes from the Baggra when I had already been going well over a mile.

As you can see, there has been a lot of growth and the wild flowers are in full swing. Red Campion is everywhere.

I enjoyed a fine clump of crosswort….

. . . and was pleased to see that the little bit of rain that we have had has refreshed the lichen on the wall beside the track.

When I got to the end of the Baggra, I continued my walk up the track through an avenue of Pyrenean valerian.

. . . and then through the tunnel of trees when I got to the top of the little hill.

I was grateful for the protection that the trees gave me against the strong wind.

Beside the track, a Jacob sheep contemplated life.

I walked along the track as far as the North Lodge and looked up the valley.

I did think for a moment of walking further up the track to Potholm and then coming back by the other side of the river, but it was only for a moment. I would have had to walk back into the brisk wind and the thought of that was enough to direct my footsteps homeward.

I did look over the felled area beside the track before I started home.

It hasn’t taken nature long to cover up the devastation left by the foresters when they cut the conifer plantation down. They don’t seem to be going to replant this area.

I strolled down to the river as I went round the pheasant hatchery. The Esk will need quite a lot more rain before it has a decent amount of water in it. It is till exceptionally low for the time of year.

There were no views to be had in the gloomy conditions and not much photographic excitement either, but it was warm enough out of the wind and it stayed dry so I enjoyed my walk.

The ribwort has enjoyed the weather a lot and there is a large spread of it beside the path round the Scholars’ Field.

It was a humid afternoon and because I had dressed for rain, I found myself a bit overheated by the end of the walk. I must have looked tired, because when I stopped to chat to our friends Mike and Alison as I passed their house, Alison asked if I was all right. I said that I was, but I was obviously a bit unconvincing and she gave me a newly baked rock bun to take home to have with my cup of tea to build up my strength.

It was very good. She gave me one for Mrs Tootlepedal too, but I ate most of it.

I had another check on the birds and as the sparrows had eaten all the mealworms, they were coming for the seed now.

Then we let the day drift quietly to a close without bothering it any more.

The flying bird of the day is another sparrow.

The flower of the day is sweet smelling honeysuckle in our hedge beside the road.

Going to the wall

Today’s guest picture comes from ex archive group member Ken. He came across this very delightful railway scene at Wylam on the Carlisle to Newcastle railway.

We had another grey day in Langholm today, with a hint of drizzle when we went out after breakfast. I had time for a walk round the garden before our visitor Venetia arrived. The theme today is abundance.

Mrs Tootlepedal especially likes those alliums under the silver pear tree. I like everything . . .

. . . but especially the soup plated sized poppies on our back wall. It is hard to pick a winner though.

Our visitor arrived and we went off for a short three bridges walk. Venetia is a regular blog reader and was keen to see some of the places that often appear in the posts.

We started at the church, where Mrs Tootlepedal took her inside to look around, and I watched the man on the cherry picker looking at the back of the church.

He had come down by the time that the ladies re-appeared, and he told Mrs Tootlepedal that there is no shortage of work needing to be done to make things safe.

From the church, we walked along the Esk to the town bridge. The waterside birds put on a good show for Venetia.

We went along the Kilngreen, crossed the Sawmill Brig and then we had a look at the red horse chestnut trees on the Castleholm.

We walked round the new path, admired the noble fir cones, crossed the Jubilee Bridge just as a blue tit emerged from the nest hole in the tree there, and got back home in time for a coffee just as a light drizzle started.

There had been plenty of blackbirds in the garden as usual but today, they were joined by a thrush.

After coffee, we got into the Zoe and set off for a drive to Hadrian’s Wall country.

We had a grand circular tour of about 100 miles in mind, coming home via Kielder Water, but being in an electric car, there is always a tinge of range anxiety even though our gauge was offering us a range of 190 miles as we left Langholm.

We got safely to Walltown Crags on the wall and parked the car to go for a walk. Much to my surprise, I found that there were two free electric charging points in this rather remote car park. This would have been ideal for a charge up while we walked, but unfortunately, I couldn’t access them and the phone reception was so poor that I couldn’t go onto the website to register which I think that I needed to do. There was no advice at the charging point and the lady in the kiosk couldn’t help so we left the car uncharged as we went off.

The walk was a great success. We looked up at the crags . . .

. . . and wondered if we would make it to the top! But there was a good path through a feast of wild flowers . . .

. . . including many northern marsh orchids, brilliant broom, tiny lesser trefoil, and up on the top, a single thyme flower.

The best looking orchid of them all was a spotted orchid. Looking at the internet, this may be a hybrid of the northern marsh and the common spotted.

The walk to the top of the crags was by way of a sheep cropped field . . .

. . . and surprisingly soon, we were looking back down to the wild flower meadow below . . .

. . . and up to the Roman wall ahead of us.

Perched on the top of an escarpment, the wall runs along the edge of the steep slope.

. . . we were just one of several parties of walkers enjoying the sunshine and the great views.

The wall is only a fraction of its original height now but it is still an impressive sight.

This is one of the small turrets that appear regularly along the wall . . .

. . . and of course where there is stone, you will usually find fine lichen too.

The wall has been robbed of much of its sone work over the centuries and this section soon ran out . . .

. . . and we took this as a hint to stop ourselves, and turn back to go to the car.

Some people think that Hadrian’s Wall is on the border between England and Scotland, but as we walked back and looked north over the wall, it was still England and not Scotland that we were looking at.

When we got back to the crags, we were able to look down on a large pond in the old quarry at the foot of the crags and the rolling hills beyond.

We had an ice cream when we got back to the car park and then decided not to complete the large circular drive but to go home by very much the way that we had come, with a diversion to Lanercost priory.

We passed a mile castle at Banks on the way to Lanercost and stopped for a look. Venetia checked an information board showing what the castle would have looked like when it was built . . .

. . . and saw that what is left is only a shadow of the original.

. . . but it was in a beautiful spot with a section of the wall and fine views so we were quite contented.

When we got to Lanercost, we had a walk round . . .

. . . and we decided that we would see if we could visit the ruined section. Sadly another technical glitch got in the way of this plan. Although there were no visitors around, we could only get in if we booked online. I got out my phone and started the process but it was so complicated and required so much information about all three of us that half way thorough, I lost the will to live, and we went and had a cup of tea on the cafe instead.

The fact that they couldn’t let us just write down our names and addresses and pay the entrance fee as there were no other visitors about was a tribute to an inflexible system. We didn’t have to write anything down in the cafe to get our cup of tea.

The cup of tea, revived my spirits and the drive home was a pleasure. We stopped at a garden centre on the way to let Mrs Tootlepedal buy a new hose attachment.

We had had a good afternoon of sunny weather for our trip and our enjoyment was perhaps enhanced a little when we found that it had obviously been drizzling steadily in Langholm in our absence.

Which it continued to do.

Venetia joined in our regular sibling Zoom, and then returned to her hotel. She will visit us for coffee tomorrow before heading north for the rest of her holiday.

We were very grateful to Venetia for giving us an excuse to have a genuine outing, the first for many months, but I am quite tired after two busy days, so I won’t be too unhappy if more rain tomorrow gives me an excuse for a quiet day in.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow in the evening rain.

A night on the town

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She was in a local botanic garden and was surprised to find a plant full of snails.

Our spell of fine weather came to an end this morning and Mrs Tootlepedal and our neighbour Liz went on a post breakfast cycle ride in a light drizzle. They battled up to Wauchope Schoolhouse against the wind, and came whizzing back at great speed.

While they were out, I completed the Langholm Initiative newsletter and mailed it out to the 700 plus members.

I had a walk round the garden when the drizzle stopped and found plenty to look at . . .

. . . including a new orange hawkweed, a new very red rhododendron, the first of what will be a flood of big daisies (and some old favourites).

It wasn’t very warm so we had coffee indoors with Margaret, which made a change.

After coffee, I went round to the shop and stopped on my way to watch a busy wagtail at the waterside.

The chap who is mending the church has a good head for heights.

When I got home, I dedicated the rest of the morning to turning compost. First I moved what was left in Bin B into Bin C and then I moved almost all of Bin A into the now empty Bin B. Because of the mostly dry weather, the compost has got a bit dry too and it has not rotted down quite as well as I would have liked. I can see that more shifting will be in order, and Bin D will probably be called into action soon.

I had a late lunch, checked the bird feeder . . .

. . . and then considered my options.

It was dry and a bit warmer by this time, but there was a brisk wind blowing so I opted for a walk rather than a pedal. I haven’t been up a hill lately because of my slightly suspect knee, but I felt that it had improved enough to give it a hilly test today, and went off up Meikleholm Hill.

It is not a severe climb but it does go up 500 feet in the first mile and there are sections at 15% to 20% so it was a good test.

I found a rabbit in my way when I got onto the open hill. . .

. . . but I went boldly past it.

My walk was considerably brightened by the many hawthorn trees in blossom on the hill . . .

. . . and if I had stopped to photograph all the ones that stood out . . .

. . . I would still be there now.

Since my knee had passed the Meikleholm test, I carried on and took in Timpen as well. It was so windy on the top that I had to nail down my cap for fear of it blowing away.

It is always worth going to the top of Timpen just to enjoy the views.

The cloud was beginning to break up and it had turned into a good day for a walk, so I headed along the ridge to the Black Knowe before turning back downhill towards the road.

The ridge was shimmering in front of me as bog cotton tossed and turned in the breeze.

From Black knowe, I looked along the ridge to Craig Hill . . .

. . . and wished that I had had the time and the legs to walk the whole way along it.

As it was, I sloped off to the right, and edged my way down the hill towards the square sheep fold above the road.

This was another good test for my knees, with gradients again reaching 20% at times. Elderly walkers will appreciate that going down hill these days is a much tougher task than going up hill.

I noticed a group of hill cattle over to my right . . .

. . . but they were more alarmed by me than I was by them, and they drifted off up the hill, leaving me a clear route down to the gate onto the road.

The going on the hill had been very good as it has been dry enough to harden up the boggy bits, and the road felt very hard under my feet when I got on to it.

The wild flowers in the verges took my mind off any little aches and pains though.

And some had company.

As I had my walking poles with me, I got off the road as soon as I could and took the steep path above the river down to the Duchess Bridge.

I looked at things as I went along . . .

I couldn’t miss the wild garlic which was everywhere. The little yellow flower is an avens of some sort, I think, and it is possible that the plant with the big leaves might be knotweed. If it is, that is very bad, as it is most invasive. I would be pleased if a knowledgeable reader can keep me right.

The path along the river bank before the Duchess Bridge is a delight. . .

. . . but there is so much leafy growth now, that it hard to see the bridge itself. My best chance was to see it reflected in the clear water of the river below.

I was pleased to get home after five quite strenuous miles, and my knees were even more pleased when I sat down for a cup of tea.

I had time for a last look at the bird feeder for the day. . .

…and a much needed shower as it had got quite hot by the end of my walk.

I then settled down to go through the day’s pictures (too many again!), because the day was to end most unusually. My Somerset correspondent, Venetia, is working her way north en route to a wildlife holiday in the north of Scotland. She had got as far as Langholm today and very kindly invited Mrs Tootlepedal and me out to an evening meal in the hotel where she is staying.

Were are pretty sure that this was our first meal out since March last year, and as such, it was a great novelty. The food was good and the conversation was interesting so it turned out to be an excellent re-introduction to real life. We can only hope that the government is paying attention to what is going on, and that this won’t be our last meal out for another year.

The flying bird of the day prefers to remain anonymous . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is an Icelandic poppy.

At last a tootle and a pedal

Today’s guest picture comes from my Lancashire correspondent, Paul. He has been having a holiday in the Lake District and enjoyed a scented azalea garden with an enormous pieris.

I had a full day today and some lovely summer weather to go with it. At the moment we getting very friendly temperatures, warm but not too hot, and often with a cooling breeze on hand. We could do with some rain for the garden but, as they say, you can’t have everything.

The day started with a disappointment. The overnight camera showed that cats had once again managed to evade Mrs Tootlepedal’s security system and entered the garage overnight. When Mrs Tootlepedal checked, there was no sign of the hedgehog or any young in the garage at all. Whether they have just moved out because the intrusions of the cats or whether the babies have fallen victim to the predators is not clear, but it is clear that hopes of seeing a hedgehog family in the garage are over.

Things could only get better after that.

I had a look round the garden before coffee.

A young blackbird was looking as though it was time that someone turned up with something for it to eat.

The red peony is lovely . . .

. . . and a choisya has come out in the bed at the top of the middle lawn. Mrs Tootlepedal is not happy with the state of its leaves but it is flowering well.

I was relieved to find that there were more bees about today, poking about . . .

. . . and getting stuck in.

We had coffee in the garden with Sandy today as Margaret had gone to Carlisle. Sandy is going off on a holiday in England at the end of this week and he was looking forward to it a lot. We are still trying to make up our minds as to whether we should go to London to see Evie, our granddaughter.

In the garden, the care of youngsters was very much to the fore with sparrows and blackbirds getting looked after. I enjoyed a little cameo on the feeder pole by a pair of starlings. It is to be read clockwise from the top left corner.

I had time for another wander round the garden before going to the shop for supplies.

Colourful corners are well established . . .

. . . and the alliums are now nearly all spherical.

On the drying green, the yellow rattle is breaking into flower…

…which is part of Mrs Tootlepedal’s plan for a mini wild flower meadow. Yellow rattle is a parasite which should weaken the grass and give space for other wild flowers to grow.

Lupins are getting bigger and better very day, both the blue . . .

. . . and the white.

I cycled round to the shop past the church, and saw that work on repairing the bell tower has begun.

The metalwork in the tower is in poor shape but the right people seem to have been hired to get the repairers up to the job.

I checked on the birds in the vegetable garden and on the feeder when I got back.

The good weather has been causing me to take far too many pictures and I took far too many again today, so I apologise for an extended post. It is hard to throw them all away.

After lunch, a cheese sandwich with a dressing of Mrs Tootlepedal’s home made vintage green tomato chutney, I went out for a pedal.

After yesterday’s trip with Mrs Tootlepedal, I decided to start in the same direction, but instead of turning left at the top of the first hill, I kept going and pedalled on to Claygate and then went to Harelaw. The verges were full of wild flowers . . .

…and the fields were full of hawthorns.

When I got to Harelaw, I looked over into England across the valley of the Liddle Water . . .

. . . and then plunged down the hill to the bridge that marks the border.

I had hoped to wander around taking pictures but quite a number of people had got there before me so I took some quick shots and got on my bike and puffed my way up the steep hill on the English side.

At the top of the hill, and some way from the actual bridge, is the Bridge Inn, and this had a handy sign showing me what I had missed.

Instead of going straight down the road to Longtown from the Inn, I tacked across country on some very minor back roads, enjoying the scenery and the peace and quiet.

I had stopped to check on the map when I saw a strange looking flower on a stalk. I thought that it was some sort of grass but research tells me that it is Common Bistort.

Common Bistort, P. bistorta, is a vigorous rhizomatous perennial growing to 1m tall. I knew that you would want to know that. It is very pretty.

I enjoyed the north Cumbrian roads on both sides of Longtown and I add some illustrations without further comment.

I was just back across border near Milltown of Sark, when I saw this fine meadow of buttercups.

I came back to Wauchope Schoolhouse across the hill so that I could get three miles of downhill, downwind riding to end my trip and at the same time check to see how the local hawthorns are doing.

Quite well, was the answer.

I got back after thirty two slow, hilly but enjoyable miles in time for a cup of tea and a shower before the regular sibling zoom.

An already good day was then made even better by an hour of playing flute, cello and piano trios with my friends Isabel and Mike. I have been practising a bit, and while far from perfect, I played a bit better than I did at our first go last week.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin…