That warm feeling

Today’s guest picture is another from Liz’s visit to the Chelsea Flower show.  It shows the much admired Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth garden.  It is difficult to know what to think about it without actually being in it.

Laurent -Perrier Chatsworth GardenIt was Dropscone’s 74th birthday today and he celebrated by going round his favourite 20 mile morning cycle ride but found it hard work as the wind has still not relented.  He brought some of his Friday treacle scones round afterwards to be enjoyed with coffee.  I was trying to take a birthday picture of him but he was too quick for me and I only got this fleeting glimpse as he cycled away.

DropsconeAfter he had left, Granny and Mrs Tootlepedal and I left too but this time by car for a shopping trip to Carlisle.  We visited Aldi and managed to pick up a modestly priced garden chair and a very, very attractively priced little back bag for my (fairly) speedy bike.

saddle bagI hadn’t intended to buy the bag as I think it is a little too small for my requirements but it was so attarctively priced that I couldn’t resist it.  I reckon that can pack a small tool kit, a spare tube, a medium banana and an egg roll into it as well as a lightweight rain jacket so it will answer well enough for trips under 50 miles.   Looking at the picture above, you might well think that I need a new saddle too and you might well be right but it is hard to give up something that has been moulded by so many miles and is still pretty comfortable.

The morning was cold and windy and grey but by the afternoon, the sun had appeared and the temperature was finally at a reasonable level for the time of year, even in the wind.  We made the most of it.  Granny came out and supervised Mrs Tootlepedal at work on one of the borders.

Granny in the gardenI was busy with compost.  I sieved the last of the material in bin D for Mrs Tootlepedal to use on her border and then started shifting the material from bin C into bin D.

compostThere can be no better fun than playing with compost but my dodgy back means that I have to be careful to take things gently and the rest of the material will be moved in small stages.  Of course then I will be able to move the stuff from bin B into Bin C.  What joy.

I also mowed the middle and back lawns, easy work because of the dry conditions, and did some shredding so my horticultural enjoyment was complete.

I did need a little sit down with the crossword afterwards though.

By this time, it was so warm and pleasant that there was no alternative to a short cycle ride in spite of the persistent breeze.  I repeated yesterday’s fourteen mile trip and thanks to both the warmth and starting in the afternoon instead of before breakfast, I was able to pedal a lot quicker today.

On account of the recent very cold and windy weather, I have done a very poor mileage in May and I can only hope that June is a kinder month.   Last year I did just under 1400 miles in March, April and May.  This year I will have done just under 1000 miles so there is some serious work to be done to get back to full fitness and that needs good weather as I don’t want to damage my new knee by charging about in inhospitable conditions.

A weather expert last night on the TV told us that the cold spell was caused by stormy Atlantic weather during the past winter.  He wasn’t to hopeful that things would change so maybe today was another flash in the pan.

The garden responded to the warmth while it was around.

lithodora and bee

There were plenty of bees working away

apple and bee

Luckily some had chosen the apples.

soft fruit

Potential strawberries and developing gooseberries

Mrs Tootlepedal has a lot of bluebells but she is sad that many of them are Spanish bluebells (left) and not our native bluebells (right). The Spanish bluebells take over from the natives and she is thinking of digging them up.

bluebellsThe first of the rhododendrons is bursting with colour in contrast to the single azalea flower to have come out so far.

rhododendronazaleaThe fine yellow tulip has also spread its wings, revealing a very delicate red border to its petals.

yellow tulipThe little willow bush near the feeders is flourishing at last.

willowA new arrival is a pair of white and blue Polemonium, commonly called Jacob’s ladder.

polemoniumThe clematis over the back door is starting to look as it should…

clematis…but most of the flowers are still waiting to come out.

All in all, the day was one of promise.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played a few flute and keyboard sonatas and we both agreed that in spite of enjoying ourselves, a little practice wouldn’t go amiss before we play together again.

It was a busy day and I didn’t have much time to bird watch so the flying bird of the day is a composite leaping and diving great tit.  A bit of a cheat but the best that I could do.

great tit

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Liz, Dropscone’s sister.  She has just visited the Chelsea Flower Show and saw these impressive alliums while she was there.

allium at ChelseaThere was a theoretical moment today, if I got up early and went out before breakfast, when I could get a quick pedal in without getting caught in the morning rain.  To my complete amazement, I got up early and got the pedal in. It wasn’t long (14 miles) and it wasn’t quick (13 mph) but it was before breakfast.  Mrs Tootlepedal was stunned.  So was I.

The reason for the need to get the pedal done with early was an appointment in Melrose, 45 miles or so away, just after lunch.  A lady from the south had got in touch with me in my capacity as a member of the Archive Group as she was anxious to find a good home for two 1859 paintings which had been presented to her father on his retirement from a local firm many years ago.  She was in Melrose for a day or two so I had agreed to meet her there today.

As we have Granny staying with us, we thought that this would be a good opportunity to take her on a tour of the border country.  We left in time to have an early lunch at the excellent Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells….

Buccleuch Arms Hotel…and Granny made things even better by standing us the lunch.   It had been raining all the way up but by the time we left, the rain had stopped.  We got to Melrose bang on time and met Mrs Turner and her son.  We chatted to them over a cup of tea and a biscuit and she gave me the paintings.  They turned out to be absolutely charming and regular readers of the blog will have no difficulty in recognising what the subjects are.  I took a couple of quick photos of the pictures when we got home.

skippers bridge by NutterThe distilleryThe paintings are by a Carlisle artist called William H Nutter, who our archive database tells us died at the house of the British Consul at La Peria, Spain on 5 June 1872, aged 50.  Mrs Tootlepedal did some research on him and you can find prints of his Carlisle paintings still on sale today.

We said our goodbyes to the Turners and continued with our tour of favourite spots with Granny.  We started at the Leaderfoot railway viaduct, one of the most elegant bridges you will ever see.

Leaderfoot viaductIt makes the old and new road bridges behind it look very lumpy.

A68 bridgesWe carried on to Scott’s View, allegedly a favourite spot of the author Sir Walter Scott.  You can see why he might have enjoyed it.

Eildon Hills Scott's viewThe tweed Scott's viewThe yellow gorse and the yellow fields of rape were a big feature of our drive.  The gorse was sensational at  times.

gorse Scott's viewWe left the viewpoint and drove on to one of my favourite spots, Smailholm Tower.  There is too much scrambling for Granny to get to the tower so she and Mrs Tootlepedal admired it from the car while I nipped out for a quick shot or two.

Smailholm towerAt the foot of the tower lies an old mill pond.

Smailholm towerLong serving (suffering?) readers will have taken this tour with me before but I make no apologies for revisiting these sites as I never tire of them.

We made our way home through Kelso and past many more brilliantly coloured yellow fields of rape. Although they are a treat to the eye, they don’t do my asthma any favours at all and I am still coughing and spluttering as I write this.

Our final stop on the tour was for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake (without which no day out is complete) at the Teviot Smokery and Water Gardens.  We were going to buy some of their smoked salmon after our tea but we forgot but I did manage a quick run round the water gardens.

Teviot water gardens

Teviot water gardens

The River Teviot at the foot of the terraced gardens

Teviot water gardensTeviot water gardensThey have a pool full of big fish to encourage people to buy their own.

Teviot water gardensThey hoped that I was going to feed them.

We got home in good order after a 100 mile round trip, with Granny still wide a wake and interested in everything that she saw.  Considering that she is 98, she is a remarkably durable lady and a treat to take on a tour.

The thing that she was most delighted with was the gorse and so I finish our tour with a another flash of yellow.

gorseI don’t think that I have ever seen the gorse so plumptious as it is this year.

In the evening, I went off to the Archive Centre with Sandy and we put a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the database.   It has been a full day.

I just had time when we got back from our tour to snatch a gloomy flying bird of the day before the light faded.

flying bird

Making an effort

Today’s guest picture shows the wonderful “Trees” in the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.  It was taken by Mike Tinker on his way home from NZ.

Singapore treesWe had a very welcome day with lots of sun and no rain.  It even felt pleasantly warm if you could get out of the wind.  The down side, as you will gather, was that the wind continued to blow.

I managed to get out out on the bike and I set off after breakfast with an elastic view of how far I might go.  After a week off the bike thanks to the weather, my knee wasn’t very happy at all at first but it soon remembered that it enjoyed cycling and settled down to some steady, painless work.  I was less happy than my knee though and after 12 miles of being buffeted by the wind, I gave up and came home.

I went out past Paddockhole and when I saw a bright yellow field there….

Paddockhole field…I thought it was some early buttercups but on examination, it turned out to be a field of dandelions.  They have really enjoyed the cool spring and are to be seen everywhere.

When I got home, I had a wander round the garden to see if the sunny day had brought on some flowers.  It had.


Two Rhododendrons were out, one big and one small.

geum and clematis

Some geums are out under the feeder and the clematis at the back door is just starting to flower.

Established flowers were enjoying the sun too.

rhododendron and rosemaryBut the star of the day was one of the last of the tulips.

yellow tulipI had a check on the apple blossom and the insects were obviously embarrassed by making an old age pensioner go round with a brush yesterday so they were out in force today.

apple blossom

Plenty of pollen.

We have hung one of the old feeders on the variegated elder outside the sitting room window so Granny can enjoy watching the birds without me standing in front of her with a camera.  The birds soon found it…

granny's feeder…and she was well entertained.  Every now and again she would cry out, “Big bird!” and on one occasion, I managed to catch the big bird before it flew off.

rookRooks are very impressive and could easily rule the world if they were aware of their powerful image.

The starlings keep trying the new feeder but it doesn’t give them enough to hang onto and they have to flap like the clappers to stay on for long enough to get something to eat.

starlingMrs Tootlepedal made an excellent pan of mushroom soup for lunch which Granny enjoyed a lot.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal did some serious pruning of the potentillas along the back wall of the house and I helped by putting some of the prunings though our shredder.

The aubretia beside the dam is looking delightful.

aubretiaWhile I was going to and fro with the shreddings, I saw what I think must be a dunnock having a really good spring clean and shake out.

dunnockIt was too good an afternoon to hang around though so I pedalled off to the Kilngreen and Castleholm on the slow bike in pursuit of dippers.  I didn’t see  a single dipper and saw but failed to take a photograph of two nuthatches who were making a lot of noise on a tree near the bridge.  A chaffinch was sitting on a branch above my head and laughing at me.

chaffinchI pedalled on to the Jubilee Bridge and waited for a blue tit to appear at the nest hole.  This time I was more fortunate.

blue titTwo of them came and went several times but they tended to coincide with passers by engaging me in conversation and that was my best effort.

I cycled back to the Kilngreen, pausing for another fruitless dipper watch on the way.

Mr Grumpy was posing on the water’s edge…

heron…but there was not much else of avian interest so I looked up the Esk…

View of esk…and then cycled home, stopping on the town bridge to look down the Esk.

Suspension bridge in SpringTwo ducks were swimming upstream, feeding as they went.

ducksIn the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I left Granny to her own devices (watching the Chelsea Flower Show on the telly mostly) and went off to the penultimate rehearsal of our Langholm choir before our two concerts at the end of the month.

We worked hard and although our performances at the concerts will not be flawless, they will be all the better for a good two hour’s work tonight.

The flying bird of the day is a herring gull, high over the river at the Kilngreen.

herring gull

Today’s picture was sent to me by Mary Jo from Manitoba and simply titled ‘Thug’.  I don’t know what this robin ever did to her.

American robinOur gentle robins have disappeared from the garden in recent weeks.  Whether they have gone off to nest or been eaten by one of the neighbours’ many cats that roam our garden looking for small birds to eat, I don’t know.  I hope they return.

We had another day of brisk winds, heavy showers and pleasant sunshine.  Every time I got mentally organised to get changed into my cycling gear, either it rained or the wind got up and in the end, I chickened out and had another lazy day.

This gave me the opportunity to do a bit more music practice and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive database.

Our local newspaper shop is looking for some cards with local landscapes to sell and this gives me an opportunity to raise some money for the Archive Group so I printed some samples out and took them up for approval.  They  passed muster so I will prepare some cards for them and see how they go.

In between times, I hung out a new feeder which I purchased at the garden centre yesterday. Some birds approached it with more confidence than others.

new feederBut it was soon in full use.

new feederA little greenfinch got caught in one of the gusty showers while scavenging under the feeder.

greenfinchAlthough it was very nice when it was sunny, it was correspondingly miserable when the clouds came over.

When it was sunny, the birds queued up to visit the new attraction.

flying sparrowThe flowers are still holding back, waiting for a bit of warmth but they are beginning to look as though they might burst into bloom soon.


Two of the azaleas that survived the frosty mornings.


An allium on the brink of blossoming


A fern just thinking about it still.

After an excellent lunch of home made soup and leftovers, I found a sunny spell and went out and mowed the back lawn.  Because it was once a chicken run, the ground there is well fertilised and the grass grows at a great rate even in discouraging weather conditions.

The sunny spells during the day brought the insects out in force.

The berberis was positively humming with bees…

berberis with bee…and a white dicentra is a bee favourite too.

beeA euphorbia had its winged fans too.

insectOne thing that a close up shows is just how unexpectedly whiskery both insects and plants can be.

insectI take it that this is a hoverfly and from the eye formation, it looks like a female but in spite of looking at a lot of hoverfly images, I couldn’t find one quite like it so I am open for help on identification here.

In another sunny spell, Granny  came out and gave the garden the once over.


The expert eye in action

There were quite a few starling visitors during the day which makes me think that there must be nesting pairs close by.


This one was showing off its handsome markings.

The strawberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants all look as though they have survived the cool spring  and I will have to start thinking of getting some netting up for the gooseberries.  The strawberries are already netted and beginning to flower.  We share the blackcurrants with the birds and there should be plenty for everyone again this year looking at the potential crop.  The espalier apples are covered in blossom but the bees are too busy elsewhere so I got working with my little soft brush (making a gentle buzzing sound as I worked just to keep the blossom happy).

The afternoon brightened up a lot as it went on and out of the wind, it was quite a pleasant day but the wind was still strong enough to keep me off the bike and to make a blue tit hang on hard to the new feeder.

blue titI had thought that the Ballerina tulips had passed their best already but in the sunshine this afternoon, they were positively glowing.

tulipsIn the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal took Granny and two more friends off to Annan to see a live relay of The Pirates of Penzance at the cinema there.  This is a great use of technology and lets people all round the country see shows by subsided theatres in London which they would not otherwise get to see except at great cost of money and time.  The cinema was very comfortable, the price modest and the view of the stage, needless to say, was excellent so they all thoroughly enjoyed the show.

I went to Carlisle with Susan to play recorders.  She had taken delivery of her new company car earlier today so I was honoured to be the first passenger in it. Roy, our librarian, was away so we couldn’t practice music for our forthcoming concert and as a result we got the chance to play some pieces which we haven’t often, or in one case, ever played.  This was most enjoyable.

The flying bird of the day was one of the visiting starlings lining up to land on the new feeder..

flying starling

Today’s guest picture shows Matilda enjoying a train ride while returning from seeing her other grandparents in Cambridge.  It is planned that we shall see her visiting her great granny here at the weekend.

Matilda on a trainIt was a day of unpredictable and very heavy showers which made planning any cycle rides or walks very unattractive.  Instead, I waved goodbye to Frankie and Mike on their journey north while Mrs Tootlepedal, after providing us all with a good breakfast, went off to a church choir practice.

After she came back, I put in some time practising my flute and singing and some time staring out of the window.


A siskin in one of the sunny moments.


A goldfinch dogfight.

I made some soup for lunch and after the meal, took a walk round the very soggy garden in a dry moment.


The first rhododendron flower of the year.

The sound of bees made me look up to see that the berberis is flowering well.

berberisThis plant is a great favourite of the bees but none were to be seen where I could catch them today.

Since a walk looked to be doomed to end in a soaking, I peered at some of the mosses to be found in our own garden.

garden mossgarden mossgarden mossThere were plenty to be seen.

Then I crumbled a little bird feed and put it on the ground outside the window.  It drew in a blackbird first…

blackbird…but it was soon chased off by jackdaws…..

jackdaws…who in turn started to fight among themselves….

jackdaws…and in the end they were warned off by an even bigger bird.


The rook was too late though, as all the food had gone.

The feathers on the rook gleamed like metal armour in the sunshine.

rookIn order to entertain Granny and get some garden necessities, we went off in the car to visit a garden centre.  We drove down in sunshine but there were immense black clouds on the way back and we had to drive through a couple of really deep puddles, big enough almost to count as floods,  By good fortune though, we missed the worst of the actual rain and got home in good order.  Granny was very entertained by our beautiful scenery, the lack of traffic and the good Scottish weather.

In the early evening, my flute pupil Luke arrived and we practised some little duets that we are going to play in public in a fortnight.  Luke was sent off with a stern injunction to practise a little harder this week.  I am sure that he will and we can always squeeze in an extra practice session if we have to.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and although we had an enjoyable play, I came home with a stern injunction to myself to practice a bit harder.  I will try.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in some light rain.


Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce who has just visited the new Devil’s Porridge visitor centre at Eastriggs.  It tells the story of the greatest factory on earth and the munitions workers who came to Gretna from throughout the Empire to support the war effort in the First World War.  The devil’s porridge was cordite.

devil's porridgeA very brief post today as we have visitors in and I am neglecting them while I write this.

The visitors:

Mrs Tootlepedal with her sister in law Frankie

Mrs Tootlepedal with her sister in law Frankie

Mike and Granny

Her brother Mike and their mother, Mauri

Mike and Frankie are going off to the north tomorrow and Granny is staying with us while they are gone.

The rest of the day can be briefly described.   The morning was spent tidying up for the visitors and staring out of the window between times.  I had no desire to go cycling because the wind was even stronger than usual.

The plum tree made a fine perch in the sunshine.

goldfinchchaffinchchaffinchSome birds left the tree to come to the feeder.

goldfinchAfter an early lunch, I got a lift from fellow member Jeremy to go to a singing day with our Carlisle choir.  A singing day is a four and half hour session in which detailed practice of some of our concert songs is mixed with sectional and small group sessions with a singing teacher.  Our excellent teacher gave the tenors and basses some very good posture, breathing and warm up work and then, when I was in with a small group of three, some individual pointers.

The whole things was both enjoyable and educational and a mark of how seriously our conductor takes his work with the choir.

Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a feast for our visitors who had arrived while I was away singing, and this rounded off one of the days which are definitely on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

Today’s guest picture is a very nice clematis in Manitoba sent to me from across the pond by Mary Jo.  She tells me that they are expecting snow.  It has not been a good spring here or there.

clematisWe had another fine day today but with a strong and chilly wind still very much in evidence.  I spent most of the day keeping out of the wind.  Dropscone helped me by dropping in for coffee and he was rewarded with several sticks of rhubarb of which is fond.

When he left, I girded up my loins and went outside to mow all three lawns.  I had just finished when I was visited by Mike Tinker, his son -in-law, Lorne and two of his grandchildren.  Sara and William immediately headed for the pond and were delighted to be able to surprise a frog while Mike, Lorne and I considered the state of the world in general and the lawns in particular.  I was bemoaning the fact that I no longer have the capacity to properly spike the lawn when Lorne offered to come down and spike it for me in the autumn.   It would be wonderful if he did.  Having a lawn spiked by someone called Lorne would be a clear case of nominative determination (and jolly useful too).

When they left, I had a wander round the garden.

lithodoraIn spite of things being very backward because of the cool spring, there is colour be seen and my currant favourite is this lithodora.  The blue flowers seem to float above the dark green foliage.

Brasher colours are to be seen too.

king cups and hyacinthSadly a couple of very cold mornings a week or so ago have put paid to two of our azaleas and killed off every bud.

azalea and rhodieSome have survived though and a rhododendron is just about to burst into flames.

After lunch, I spent a little time watching the bird feeders.


A goldfinch is thoroughly disgusted by another goldfinch doing acrobatic tricks with a siskin by perching on its beak.


Two calmer goldfinches itting for their portraits

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Canonbie, where she had one or two items entered in a WRI competition and I went for a walk.  I was looking to see if the bluebells had improved at all but there were many other things to look at on the way.

Murtholm trees

The trees along the Murtholm fields.


Swallows flitting up the Esk. It is amazing what a difference a slight turn of the camera makes to the light.

The bluebells, when I got to them, were good but not great…

bluebellsbluebells…and I thought that the walk along the main road to get to them was just as rewarding visually.

A7I walked back over Skippers Bridge and took the obligatory picture.  This time, I looked downstream.

The EskAnd then I climbed up a path to the old railway line above the river.  There is a handy rail for the convenience of elderly walkers.

Skippers pathI took the path from the railway up towards the Round House…

Path to Round House…and then strolled back down the hill into the town.  Beside the track, I saw the first broom flower that I have seen this year. It was about to open.

broomA few yards further on, I saw two that had opened.

broomFurther on still, I had another look at the flowering nettle which I have photographed before without doing it justice.  This is one of those tiny flowers that you might well pass by without noticing it, if you hadn’t had your eyes opened by walking around with a camera.  I find it hard to capture yellow flowers well but this was my best effort yet.

nettleI went down to the river in the hope of seeing some interesting water birds on my way home but had to make do with some flowers beside the water.

cornflower and pinkbellWhite bluebells are quite common but I don’t think that I have seen a pink one before.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and I was able to eat a couple of slices of her third-prize winning tea loaf with my refreshing cuppa.  It was delicious.  The first and second prizewinners must have been really good stuff.  I was also pleased to see a bee hard at work among the apple blossom.

bee in apple blossomIn the evening, I went off by myself to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a band called Elbow Jane play.  There was much to admire about them; their sound level was very reasonable, the bass and drum players were efficient and discreet and the three front men were all good musicians.  On the other side of the coin, their set went on too long, and their singing was a bit relentless so in the end it rather felt as though you had been shouted at for two hours.  As well as their own songs, they covered Paul Simon, The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Joni Mitchell which gives a good indication of their influences and although it is music that I like, they never really managed to bring an involuntary smile to my face or get my toe tapping for long.  Still, a live concert 300 metres from your front door is always a bonus and I enjoyed myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.  The picture shows just how well balanced these birds are in the air while their wings are flapping furiously.

flying goldfinch


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