Cathedral concert

Today’s guest picture shows a view of the River Trent near Swarkestone Bridge.  My brother Andrew took the shot while out with his walking group.

River Trent

The wind was in the process of moving round from east to west today but it did it very gently and gave us a wonderfully sunny autumn morning on the way.  It was cool enough to put ice on the car windscreen but not cold enough to produce a ground frost.

It would have been a grand day to be going about taking autumn mist and colour pictures but I didn’t have much time to spare so I rushed out after breakfast and took a few without going far from the house.

suspension bridge

River Esk in langholm


Buccleuch park in autumn

The reason for my haste was the need to be in Carlisle for a rehearsal for our community choir concert in the cathedral.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a prior engagement so I went by myself and arrived in perfect time for the practice.

Because the concert was in the middle of a working day, we were by no means at full strength but all the same we must have been about 60 or 70 strong so even in a venue as grand as the cathedral…

Carlisle Cathedral

…we were fairly squeezed in.

We had our practice and then assembled again for the concert.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that all the available seats in the audience had been taken, especially as there was  small charge for entry and we gave our best effort to the occasion.

A member of the audience, who happens to be a reader of this blog, told me afterwards that she had thoroughly enjoyed the concert so that made the work that went into it worthwhile.

The cathedral itself was positively glowing in the brilliant sunshine when we came out.

Carlisle cathedral

…and I enjoyed the walk back beneath the old city walls….

Carlisle City walls

…to the car park below.

Carlisle City walls

It was a golden day.

I drove home, had a cup of tea and a slice of bread and then got changed as quickly as possible to make some use of such a fine day on my bicycle.  It was unfortunate that such a good cycling day should coincide with a concert but such is life.

I did spend a few minutes looking out of the kitchen window while I was waiting for my tea to cool.

I have put a cage on the fat ball feeder to discourage jackdaws from eating me out of house and home and this makes taking pictures of the birds visiting it a bit tricky…

Two blue birds

…but as it also helps to protect them from any sparrowhawk raids, it is worth it.

The goldfinches were using the sunflower seed feeder.


A goldfinch gets a rude welcome…


…but having landed, starts shouting equally rudely

I went round my Canonbie twenty miler but in the opposite direction to my usual tour.  Considering that it starts and finishes at the same place, the amount of climb and descent must be equal whichever way you go but it seemed much harder going round the ‘wrong’ way and as the sun had gone in and it was feeling quite chilly, I didn’t stop to take any pictures but concentrated on getting home as soon as possible.

Mrs Tootlepedal had come home from her engagement and was busy planting out daffodils and exchanging views on life over the garden hedge with Stan, one of Langholm’s finest photographers.


While we talked, a flurry of excitement from the bird feeder heralded a flying visit from the sparrowhawk but it came and went so swiftly that we couldn’t tell whether it had caught a small bird napping or not.

There wasn’t enough light left to make a walk worthwhile so I had a quick wander round the garden….



…where there was more than enough late October colour to keep an old man happy.




Lilian Austin and Crown Princess Margareta


Yarrow, a gift from our friend Jenny’s garden

We have had a long flowering season after a slow start this year.

Then  it was time for a shower and our evening meal (which featured the third and last appearance of the slow cooked venison stew) and a good sit down.

The wind should  have completed its turn by tomorrow and it is due to be quite brisk so I may have a quiet day and catch up on business.  I have done 400 miles on the bike already this month so I am well up on my schedule.

The flower of the day is a marigold….


…and the flying bird of the day is two goldfinches in combative mood.

flying goldfinches

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Marjorie’s holiday in Yorkshire.  She tells me that she had to climb 107 steps to get to the top of a lighthouse to get this view of Flamborough Head yesterday.

Flamborough Head

I am not sleeping as well as I would like at the moment so I was happy to have a very idle morning while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a church choir practice.

I watched the birds for a bit…

…and some of the birds watched me.

blue tit and goldfinch

There are still a lot of dunnocks about and because they don’t fly onto the feeder I have been neglecting them a bit.  Here is one with the only great tit that I saw all day.

dunnock and great tit

It is hard to miss the coal tits and blue tits as they come in a constant stream all day.

coal tit and blue tit

There haven’t been many blackbirds about lately since all the rowan berries were eaten but the occasional one drops by.


I got a good look at two other birds, one an old friend….


…and the other an occasional visitor.

wood pigeon

I noticed while I was looking out of the window that there was a flower near the feeders which I have never photographed.

I went out to have a look at it. Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is a heuchera,


It was a bit cooler today but the forecast said that it was set fair so I had an early lunch and set out for my standard 20 mile pedal down to Canonbie and back.  It started to rain when I was three miles out which was a surprise but I persevered and luckily the rain didn’t so I was soon happily going along in the dry again.

I stopped in Canonbie to take a picture of the Cross Keys, an old coaching inn in the village.

Cross keys, Canonbie

The quiet road road that I was on used to be the main road from Carlisle to Edinburgh not so long ago.  The inn has lost a lot of passing trade.

While I was in stopping mode, I stopped at Byreburnfoot on the far side of the village to have another look at the fine crop of fungus beside the road. There were dozens.


I couldn’t help having a quick look up the river while I was there.

Byreburnfoot colour

I stopped on Hollows Bridge to check the view but it seemed much the same as when I was last there so after a quick look back at the bridge…

Hollows Bridge

A wide and handsome bridge for the handful of cars and the occasional cyclist that use it now.

… I pedalled on home.

I had thought of going for a walk in search of fungus when I got back but I found Attila the Gardener engaged on a big task and I thought it only proper to lend a hand.

She had pruned an old azalea and was digging round the roots prior to moving it to a new place.

Azalea move

With a good deal of delving, levering and heaving, the bush was dislodged and hauled to its new home.

Mrs Tootlepedal filled the new hole with compost and bonemeal and watered the plant in very thoroughly but the azalea is old and has had some rough treatment in its move so only time will tell if it will be back in business next spring.  I hope so becuase it has been the star of many a photo in the past.

yellow azalea

The bush may not look like a big thing to shift but it was pretty heavy and we were pleased to have managed the move and more than happy to retire inside for a rest afterwards.

A dahlia caught my eye on the way in.


My flute pupil Luke is having a holiday in Edinburgh so I had time to get my music in order for the choir concert in Carlisle tomorrow before it was time for tea.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We spent some time making initial progress with a new Mozart trio and were able to work through the first two movements at a modest pace.  Quite a bit more work will be needed before the composer might recognise his own work but it is a very enjoyable way to spend some time and effort.

The flower of the day is two nasturtiums….


…and the flying bird is a chaffinch approaching the feeder cautiously.


Chaffinches are go

Today’s guest picture shows a pair of Egyptian geese looking very autumnal.  Our daughter Annie met them on a visit to the Serpentine in London.

Egyptian geese

After a succession of rather grey days, we woke to brilliant sunshine today.  This meant that the temperature was on the low side but miraculously, it had stayed well above freezing.

While Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir, I prepared a venison stew for the slow cooker and then had a walk round the garden.  Two buzzards were circling high in the sky above, giving their characteristic mewing calls.


Flowers had survived very well…

poppy, anemone and fuchsia

…and the sun felt warm in spite of an east wind.

I spent some time looking out of the window during the cooking.

Goldfinches were in action mode, arguing vigorously among themselves.



They weren’t very nice to visiting chaffinches either….

goldfinches and chaffinch

…which might explain why the chaffinches preferred to pick up scraps on the ground.


But at least there were plenty of chaffinches back in the garden which was good to see.

There was only one greenfinch today.


A chaffinch looked very surprised to see it.

Finally the chaffinches got a foothold on the feeder….

chaffinches and goldfinches

…but blew their chances by internecine squabbles…

chaffinches squabbling

…letting the goldfinches get back in control.

goldfinch and chaffinch

When Mrs Tootlepedal came back from church, I didn’t have time for a cycle ride so I went for a very short walk  instead.

I had hoped to catch a flying gull or two, but the gulls weren’t in a co-operative mood at all.  The herring gull stood firmly on his favourite rock and the black headed gulls stuck to their posts and wouldn’t budge.


I walked on, noticing that the leaves are now falling as autumn leaves traditionally do.

fallen leaves

There were plenty left though.

Langholm bridge

Lodge Walks

And there was a lot of fungus too.


Both small….


…and large

I looked over our hedge as I got back to the house and got a better view of these poppies than I can get from the garden.

pink poppies

Then it was time for an early lunch and a trip to Carlisle.  We had to get off sharpish as we had an early start to our choir practice.  We have a concert in the Cathedral in Carlisle on Tuesday and as a result, we had a lot of work to get through.

Thanks to the prompt getaway, we managed to fit in some shopping on our way and topped up our stock of coffee and cheese along with a big bucket of bird food.

The choir practice was very hard work as we worked through ten songs in two and a half hours and on top of that, the tenors and basses were on tea break duty and had to do the clearing away and washing up at the tea break.  Still, the hard work is rewarding and the concert should go well (if we can remember everything that we have learned).

The weather forecast says that the wind is going to change on Wednesday and come from the west so our long dry spell will be probably be coming to an end.  It has been good while it lasted.

The flower of the day is a pink poppy with a little dew on it….

pink poppy

…and the flying bird of the day is one of the returning chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

Keeping calm

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Chester and shows a view of the cathedral there.

Chester's Cathedral

We had yet another calm, cool, dry day today although Mrs Tootlepedal did encounter the briefest of showers while she was archaeologising.

She spent pretty well the whole day at the Roman fort at Broomholm, helping with the grids for the survey.  She tells me that they have identified three ovens and a road or two already but more will be revealed as the data is analysed.  She has quite enjoyed treading in the Romans’ footsteps and looking at the country as they might have looked at it when the fort was in use.

I spent another quiet morning at home, occasionally looking at birds but not in a Roman way at all.

blue tit and goldfinch

Blue tits and goldfinches were our most frequent visitors

coal tit, chaffinch and goldfinch

We run an ecumenical feeder with all sorts of different birds present at the same time…


…but when the goldfinches take over, there is often trouble

I popped out every now and again to do some useful things in the garden.  I sieved some compost, which Mrs Tootlepedal is going to need in her reconfigured flower beds and I completed the spiking and sanding of half of the front lawn.

I spread these actions out in small chunks over the day because experience tells me that doing too much at once leads to not being able to do anything at all.  Can it be that after all these years, I am finally acquiring a little wisdom?  Hope springs eternal.

I also found time to  look at the flowers.


A cosmos.  The taller variety is lasting well.


The dahlias just keep coming

And I ate a raspberry as well.


If the frost keeps away, I will be still eating them in November

In the afternoon, I went out for a pedal round my Canonbie route.  The larch trees are just beginning to turn….


…and with a bit of luck, we will get a nice golden display from them in time.

There was a light crosswind for most of the way round so I concentrated on keeping pedalling rather than looking for photo opportunities but I did stop a couple of other times.

The trees by the roadside on the old A7 at Canonbie were very striking.

A7 trees

I parked the bike at the end of the bike path and walked down to the river at Broomholm Island and although the riverside wasn’t as colourful as I had hoped…

Broomholm Island

…I was pleased to get a glimpse of a dipper while I was there.


I did think of  making a diversion on my route and calling in on Mrs Tootlepedal at the Roman fort but it would have involved going up two steep hills so my legs voted against it.

As this blog is a sort of daily diary, I try always to use pictures that I have taken that day in it but I am making an exception today as just after I had posted last night’s effort, Mrs Tootlepedal called me out into the garden to meet the hedgehog she has been putting food out for.


My hedgehog knowledge is nil so I have no idea whether this is a male or a female, young or old but it looks quite well fed.  I hope that we are able to see it again.

The flower of the day is a poppy, as red in real life as it is in the picture…


…and the flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.


Taking it easy

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Chester last month.  Chester is a very photogenic town.


Our spell of dry weather continued today, although it was generally rather grey.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent almost all day helping with some archaeological work at the Roman fort at Broomholm, a couple of miles out of the town.  A visiting expert is doing a methodical survey of the site and this requires a grid of cords to be laid on the grass for him to follow to ensure that his machine is covering the whole site and not leaving any gaps.  A team of volunteers rushes about moving the grids as he moves along and it is hard work for them.

I am still not quite at my peak so I was happy to leave her to this and so I stayed at home and  enjoyed some treacle scones which Dropscone brought round to go with a cup or two of coffee.

After he left, I had a walk round the garden.  The sedum has come out but too late to attract any butterflies this year and the nerines are going over and producing berries.

sedum and nerine

The dahlias continue to flourish as we have still not had any cold nights.


And I am able to find fresh raspberries to eat every day from our autumn fruiting bushes.  They are not covered and the birds are happy to leave plenty for me to eat.  They have got a very good flavour this year.

Apart from the white clematis on the fence which is really strong, there are two other clematis in bloom but they are not very spectacular.


I went back inside and spent some peaceful time watching the birds in general and in particular trying to catch a coal tit in flight with variable success.

coal tit in flight

They are extremely nippy little birds.

The sunflower hearts have attracted a lot of customers and I counted ten goldfinches at one time.


Blue, coal and great tits are constantly visiting and it hard to say whether it is a few birds coming often or larger numbers coming now and again.  I have seen four blue tits at once and three coal tits but only one or two great tits at the same time.

blue tits

coal tit

I didn’t catch a great tit in action today.

I was delighted to see two or three greenfinches visiting.

greenfinch and goldfinch

Coal tit and greenfinch close in on a goldfinch

greenfinch and goldfinch

And a goldfinch closes in on a greenfinch

I stopped watching the birds and put on some leek and potato soup to cook for my lunch and then took another turn round the garden.

bee on nasturtium

I was happy to see that we still have some bees about

The soup came out well and fortified by a bowl of it with some bread and cheese, I went off for a short pedal around my now customary Canonbie route.

I was delighted to feel a bit of sunshine on my face shortly after I had got going and then almost instantly dismayed to feel drops of rain.  However both the sun and rain soon disappeared and I was left pedalling along in very light winds under a grey sky.

I really like this tree at the Bloch Farm which is a riot of golden colour….

Bloch tree

…but why only part of the tree has changed colour is a mystery to me.

As I was deliberately not pedalling very fast, my mind began to wander onto the current political situation here and in the United States and the responsibility of the print, broadcast and on-line media for a lot of the mess that we are in and this made me so cross that I found by the time that I had got to Canonbie, almost without realising it, that I was making quite good time.

This wasn’t the plan so I stopped to relax and enjoy the view up river at Byreburnfoot from a grassy bank…

Esk at Byreburnfoot

…and when I looked down, I saw that the grass was well sprinkled with fungus.

fungus at Byreburnfoot

Mrs Tootlepedal’s view that the 20/21 October might be peak autumn colour time seems to be pretty well founded, although there is still quite a lot of green about as well as good colour. I stopped again to see what the view of Irvine House looked like today.

Irvine house

Another day or two or even more perhaps before this scene will be at its best.

I cycled into the town and made a final stop to admire the little burst of riverside colour at the Town Bridge.

Langholm Bridge in autumn

I had time to have a shower and get changed before Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her hard day’s work and then I cooked a smoked sausage risotto and two baked apples for our tea as I thought that she needed a good rest and some looking after.

During the day, while I was  looking out of the ktichen window, I saw blackbirds, dunnocks, sparrows, jackdaws. a collared dove, greenfinches, goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, coal tits and a wren (which posed for two seconds and flitted off as soon as I made a move for my camera).    On top of these there were also some chaffinches…


…but nothing like the number I would expect.  They are usually by far the most numerous bird in our garden and I am beginning to wonder if they have had a bad year.  It may be that there is still plenty of food for them out in the country but I can’t say that I have passed many large flocks of them as I have been cycling around lately.

I checked the RSPB garden bird watch results for Scotland and chaffinches came second this year so there doesn’t seem to be a crisis and we shall see what happens when the weather gets colder.

Meanwhile the flower of the day is a vibrant dahlia (with friend)…

dahlia and bee

…and in spite of everything, the flying bird of the day is one of our few chaffinches.

flying chaffinch






Today’s guest picture was sent to my by my friend and ex-colleague Marjorie who is on holiday in Yorkshire.  It shows a memorial on Lissett  Airfield to the dead of 581 squadron who were based at the airfield there.  You can see the names of the dead inscribed on the sculpture.  I was bowled over by this work.


I read in the papers that this October is likely to be one of the driest on record and I can quite believe it.  We had another dry day today and although it was not a very sunny day, the light winds made it pleasant to be out.

I was feeling a bit better today than yesterday but I still took things easily and spent a very quiet morning doing nothing more energetic than cycling up into the town to order more supplies of coffee and visit Sandy who was manning the information hub in the Market Place.

And I watched the birds.

Since I have added some sunflower hearts to the feeder, we have had an increased number of bird visitors and today the feeders were kept busy.

coal tit, great tit and blue tit

We had steady stream of tits – coal, great and blue – all day.

The number of tits visiting is very heartening as there were hardly any to be seen earlier in the year and there were fears that the bad spring might have caused a big drop in numbers.

The goldfinches seem to have been moulting as they are looking rather scruffy.


They are also just as ready to bicker among themselves as the sparrows are.


But they will share the feeder.

goldfinch and coal tit

Goldfinch and coal tit

Goldfinch and great tit

Goldfinch and great tit

After lunch (sardine pate – but the fish diet doesn’t seem to be improving my brain at all), Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and I got the fairly speedy bike out and went for a very slow pedal.

I was pleased to see that the business of connecting the Ewe Hill wind farm to the grid is getting near completion…

Ewe hill windfarm

Only about a mile or so to go.

…as the turbines have been turning for some weeks without doing anything useful so far.

There was plenty of colour on my route as the hedges are beginning to turn and there was a gorse bush in full bloom near Gair.

hedge and gorse

Thanks to my slow progress, I was feeling quite cheerful and added a mile or two to my customary twenty.  I rode down to Gretna and crossed the border into England over this mighty bridge.

Border bridge

…and then almost immediately turned left and headed back towards Scotland.  I had picked on this route in the hope of seeing some of the barnacle geese that come to our part of the world in the winter months.

As I pedalled up the road back to Scotland, I could hear faint honking that sounded as though it might be geese but I couldn’t see anything.  Finally the honking became loud enough to make me stop and look around and I could just see what might be geese settled in a distant field. I was disappointed as I had hoped for a better view and was about to pedal on when it became apparent that the honking was now in stereo.

I turned round and saw a large skein of geese flying from the west….

barnacle geese

… and as they got closer, the geese in the field flew up to join them with shouts of welcome…

barnacle geese

…and then the whole lot settled back down in the field.

barnacle geese

I wished that I had been able to get nearer to them but as I stood and watched, two more skeins flew over…

barnacle geese

…so I had no shortage of geese to watch.

Pleased with my route choice, I cycled the rest of the way home in a very good mood.

There was more colour on the way….

Milltown of Sark, back in Scotland again

Milltown of Sark, back in Scotland again

…and although my ride had been mostly cloudy, Whita was bathed in sunshine against a grey sky behind as I got near the town.


I managed 33 miles but what with stopping to take pictures of hedges and watching the geese for some time, the ride took me most of the afternoon and there was little time for anything else before I had to make my tea and get ready to go our with Susan to play with our recorder group in Carlisle.

There were four of us this week and Roy produced an excellent variety of music and we finished with a trio sonata by Telemann for treble and tenor recorder with a bass recorder and (electronic) harpsichord accompaniment.  This was a very good way to round the evening off.

My flower of the day is a composite of late October garden colour….

garden colour October

…and the flying bird is a shy goldfinch, hiding behind the feeder.


Plans B, C, D and E

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Chester and shows the fine road bridge into the town.

Chester bridge

The forecast was for a fine day and I had a simple plan which involved getting up smartly and going for a good long cycle run.  Unfortunately this excellent plan did not work out.  There was nothing wrong either with the weather or my bicycle but I had one of those rare days when the prospect of a few hours in the saddle just seemed too daunting to contemplate.

Luckily, there was plenty to do instead.

The first thing was to take Mrs Tootlepedal and her bicycle up to the Roman fort at Broomholm where she was helping with a new archaeological survey of the site which is  bigger than previously thought.  The bike was to enable her to come back to the town at lunchtime, when she was due to be a volunteer at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar.

Having dropped her off, I drove slowly home, stopping for photo opportunities on the way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and I took two views from the hill above the river.  The first was looking downstream…

River Esk at Broomholm

…and the second, looking across the valley.  I may have put this one through a filter.

River Esk at Broomholm

When I got down to the town, I went on to the Castleholm where the Lodge Walks were looking inviting…

Lodge walks

…and there were plenty of fungi to be seen…


…and the views across the playing field were inviting.


Mrs Tootlepedal reckons that October 20th is the best day for photographing Autumn but as the sun was shining and it may not be out tomorrow, I was happy to settle for the `19th instead.

The next part of the alternative plan was coffee with Dropscone.  On this occasion there were no scones but he had been able to buy some tasty cakes on his way back from a golf meeting in the borders so we enjoyed those instead.

While we were chatting, nibbling and sipping, I was pleased to see a goldfinch arrive.  I had put some sunflower hearts out earlier and it took the goldfinch exactly half an hour to notice them.

great tit and goldfinch

The great tit preferred the fat balls.

After Dropscone went on his way, I got the ladder out and set about clipping the hydrangea back so it won’t upset our guttering.


It has to be trimmed every year or it would smother the house.

Mrs Tootlepedal came and went and I moved onto the next small task which was to spike and sand a little bit of the front lawn.  My first effort a few days ago, when I did quite a lot at once, had left me with a sore hip so I wisely did a smaller section today.

I walked round the garden before lunch.

There were whites….

sun lit flowers

…and there was colour.

bee on poppy

There was moire colour at lunchtime when I had a plate of brown soup.  It didn’t look very appetising but it tasted very good.

After lunch, I sieved some compost and picked some of the Charles Ross apples.  They are very big and some of them will no doubt appear on the dinner table as baked apples later in the week.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch centre and cycled back up to Broomholm for more archaeological work.    I did think of a twenty mile bike ride but in spite of the good weather, I still couldn’t face it so I took a picture of a nasturtium…


…and then went for a two mile ride on my slow bike instead.  I rode through the park and along the Beechy Plains…

Beechy Plains

…down to the Skippers Bridge where I saw two anglers patiently waiting for a bite.

Skippers Bridge with anglers

Then I pedalled back up the other side of the river, stopping first to admire a wonderful patch of Michaelmas daisies by the river…

Michaelmas daisies

…and then again when I saw a goosander….


…until finally I came to the Kilngreen.  There I enjoyed watching some argumentative gulls flying this way and that…

black headed gulls

…and chasing each other off the fence posts along the bank.

black headed gulls

There was a curiously coloured duck in the river.

curious duck

I have heard suggestions that there has been interbreeding between the wild ducks on the river and some domestic ducks and looking at this bird lends some credibility to that idea.

Then I went home and enjoyed some tea and toast….and a little cute bird watching.

dunnock and robin

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and we had our evening meal and while she watched the Great British Bake Off, I went to a choir practice with Langholm Sings.  We had a rather small attendance at the choir but a very good practice and it rounded off a day that might have been disappointing if I hadn’t been able to fill it with a number of small but enjoyable activities instead of the planned cycle ride.

The flower of the day is a poppy.


…and the flying bird is a black headed gull rising above the petty squabbles of the others.

black headed gull