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I stole today’s fine guest picture from Sandy without asking him so I hope he is not cross.  I used it because it shows the view across the Lothians towards the Forth and you can just see where we are staying in the background on the far shore.

View from Traprain Law

We woke to strong winds and pounding rain but by the time that we had had our coffee, the rain had largely stopped so Alistair and Matilda and I were able to have to have a walk round the town in search of a shop selling towels, as our cottage was rather under-supplied with these.

We found some in the end in an Aladdin’s cave of a little shop called This and That.  It certainly had this…and that…and quite a lot else besides.

The sun broke through the clouds and with Matilda resting after her walk, there was time for me to get the slow bike out of the car and test the back roads of Fife.  I didn’t think that I had done justice to the shell decoration on the house near the car park so I had another go today.  It is very striking.

Anstruther shell house

I was soon pedalling along out of the town.  The countryside is certainly different from ours.

Fife

Not a sheep in sight.

It started to rain soon after I took the shot above but the brisk wind soon moved the clouds along and the rest of the trip was fine and dry.

My target was a test visit to a castle and garden to see if it seemed like the sort of place that Mrs Tootlepedal might like to visit.

Kellie Castle

The castle looked fine enough but of more interest was the prospect of a large walled garden to roam round.  Another visit looked like a good idea.

I made my expedition into a 14 mile circular tour and there was plenty to see as I pedalled along.

alpaca and signpost

The alpacas are no longer a surprise but the signpost certainly was.

flowers and loch

Kilconquhar Loch was dazzling in the sunshine.

The fact that every farm that I passed seemed to have its own windmill was rather ominous and on this day at least, they were all earning their corn, as there was a brisk wind that made the outward journey a slog but the last few miles back home, a breeze.

I got home in time to join Matilda for lunch.  She had been to the beach with Mrs Tootlepedal and was in a very cheerful mood.

After lunch, it was time for Matilda’s siesta so I took Mrs Tootlepedal off in the car to visit the walled garden at Kellie Castle.

The garden is just under an acre and looks larger.  It was full of interest  including a very bright blue comfrey covered with bees, a huge garden bench and a busy thrush collecting worms.

Kellie Castle garden

Although it was very early in the season, the gardens were very beautiful.

Kellie Castle garden

Kellie Castle garden

Kellie Castle garden

 Kellie Castle garden

The castle and garden are in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and we chatted to one of the gardeners who was busy planting some vegetables out.  She told us that it was maintained by two and a half professional gardeners.  As it is organic, it requires a huge amount of work and they have a great team of volunteers to help them.

The day was never without a shower or a threat of a shower and it rained when we started to talk to the gardener but it had passed by the time that we had finished.

The castle looked good as we left it and you wouldn’t know that it was semi derelict and being used as a farm barn 140 years ago.

Kellie Castle

Matilda was up and about when we got back so we set out to walk to a good beach that we had spotted on our walk to Pittenweem on Sunday.  Alistair and Clare came with us and left us on the beach while they walked along the coastal path.

The beach was looking at its best.

Anstruther beach

The waves were just at Matilda’s height.

Anstruther beach

Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda were far down the beach…

Anstruther beach

…when Al and Clare came back from their walk having had enough of being blasted by the very brisk wind.

We were just cursing a rather savage outbreak of rain on the walk back to the cottage when the sun came out and Mrs Tootlepedal asked, “Where’s the rainbow?”

It was over there, just above some roofs.

anstruther rainbow

It was the mother and father of all rainbows and we hurried to get a better view of it.  A gull was being brained by one end of the bow….

anstruther rainbow

…and will now presumably be the gull that lays the golden eggs.  Very sadly, since ot was a superb double rainbow, I didn’t quite have the camera or the position to make the most of it photographically…

anstruther rainbow

…but the sight of it will stay in my mind for some time.

We were all very tired when we got back (nice beach but too far to walk to again) and we perked ourselves up with a fish and chip supper.

The day had started gloomily but ended brilliantly as far as the weather went and I took a picture at each end of the day to show the difference.

am and pm anstruther

The flying bird of the day is yet another gull.

flying gull

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who has been on his travels too.  He was in Edinburgh at a family do and managed to find a golf course with a splendid view.

Edinburgh

The forecast for today had been terrible but a knowledgeable chap in a hut whom we met yesterday on our walk told us not to worry as he knew better.  It would rain over night, he said,  but it would turn out fine once the day got going.

The knowledgeable chap in the hut turned out to be spot on and although the day dawned rather grey and windy….

rowers

These rowers, out for an early jaunt, were working very hard.

…it didn’t rain and as the day went on, the weather got better.

While I was watching the rowers, I spotted a duck….

eider duck

We only have mallards in Langholm so I had to look this one up.  It turned out to be an eider duck.  It was in a very busy mood.

eider duck

Eider up…..and eider down

We were waiting for a package to be delivered but when we were notified that it would come after lunch, we took a walk along the Fife Coastal Path to the neighbouring village of Pittenweem in search of a cup of coffee.

Parking in front of our holiday home is at a premium so we started by taking our car to the other side of the old harbour and parked it there, looking back at the cottage.

Anstruther

Our cottage is the small one with the white door at the left hand end of the row.

The coastal path was excellent.  It was squeezed between the shoreline and a golf course but it could hardly have been better to stroll along on a Sunday morning.

Fife coastal path

It was lined with wild flowers…

Fife coastal path

…and overlooked many charming little coves…

Fife coastal path

This one was covered in sea shells

Each cove is defined by long strips of rock running into the sea and some of them had very fine strata to admire.

Fife coastal walk

Pittenweem was only a mile away and we soon saw it ahead of us, perched on the top of a rugged cliff.

Pittenweem

Mrs Tootlepedal remarked  that she wouldn’t like to live quite so close to the edge

The harbour at Pittenweem is a working harbour with a fish market and fishing boats rather than a marina with yachts.

Pittenweem harbour

It would be a good place to live if you liked fresh fish.  The fish market is on the right.

We found a pub open on the harbour front and they were pleased to sell us two coffees and a rather exotic scone.

Pittenweem is built on a sandstone cliff and we were impressed by St Fillan’s Cave which is set into the living rock.

St Fillan's Cave

We came back along the coastal path again and avoided being hit by any golf balls as we went along.

Anstruther golf course

The path goes along the edge of the fairway.  The golf course was busy.

Anstruther looked very pretty as we got near on our return.

Anstruther

We had lunch and since the package we still on its way, I went for a wander round the town in some very pleasant conditions.

I made a note of some of its attractive features.

anstruther

anstruther

The boat had been freshly painted and was looking very smart. The shells were decorating the side of a house.

The harbour might easily be confused for somewhere fashionable in the south of France…

anstruther

…if there had been another 10 degrees on the thermometer.

I walked down to the sea shore to look at the sort of things that you look at when you are the sea shore.

sea shore stuff

I got back to the cottage and joined Mrs Tootlepedal in waiting for the package to arrive.

It finally arrived and Mrs Tootlepedal immediately took it for a walk to the beach.

Matilda at anstruther

We were delighted to welcome Matilda and her parents.  They are staying with us for the week.

We may not have Mt Grumpy here, but there are some severe looking gulls about keeping an eye on us all.

gull

 

We are hoping the weather will stay kind and that we will have much more beach fun before the week is over.

The flying bird of the day is another gull.  (You may have to get used to gulls.)

gull

 

 

 

A day out

No guest picture today but a farewell one instead.  We went off in the morning to visit Fife and waved goodbye to the tulips as we went in the hope that we may see them in flower when we return.

tulips

Mrs Tootlepedal will be very upset if they have come and gone before we get home.

Our journey took us towards Edinburgh and we were impressed by the amount of snow on The Pentland Hills when we got near to the city.

Pentland Hills

We made a stop at a large garden centre for lunch and then visited a butterfly-filled greenhouse attached to the garden centre.  It was wonderful.  I took so many pictures that I have put them in a separate post which you can find by clicking on the butterfly.

butterfly

We pressed on northwards, circling the city on the by-pass and crossing the Forth on the suspension road bridge.  Mrs Tootlepedal was able to catch a glimpse of the new supported beam bridge as we went by.  Maybe the next time that we come this way it will be via this new bridge.

New Forth crossing

Once we had crossed the bridge we turned eastwards. A tempting sign offered us a Forth Bridges viewpoint and we tried to find it.  Either it has been overtaken by the vast building works that are going on or someone has stolen the signs to it, because we never found it.

We took the coast road, pottering along through many small towns and villages, stopping to visit the beach at Burntisland and look across the Forth at Inchcolm Island…

Inchcolm

…and the skyline of the Edinburgh on the far shore.

Edinburgh

The snowcapped Pentlands made an impressive backdrop.

We could also see the familiar outlines of Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags.

Arthurs seat from Fife

It was a beautiful day as this picture looking back across the links beside the sea shows.

Burntisland

We arrived bang on time at Anstruther, our destination, and settled into the cottage which we have hired for a week.

Anstruther is one of the coastal villages in the East Neuk of Fife and is famous for its fish and chips.  With this in mind, we thought that we ought to work up an appetite and went for walk through the village.

The Old harbour

The old harbour, outside our cottage door.

Church

An old church which has suffered many vicissitudes and is now much reduced in size from its prime.  John Knox preached there on one occasion.

We looked back from the church towards the new harbour front.

Anstruther

Then we walked past the new harbour…

Anstruther

…and into Cellardykes, a village so close to Anstruther that it is hard to tell them apart.  Cellardykes has a handsome Toolbooth…

Cellardykes tollbooth

…and houses built so close to the sea that they can probably catch fresh fish from their sitting rooms when the tide is in.

Cellardykes

There was no way in front of the houses so we had to walk through the village, spied upon by the natives as we went.

gull

We found a gap and looked across at the Isle of May…

Isle of May

…which is a haven for sea birds.  We hope to take a boat trip there later in the week of the weather is suitable.

We got as far as the harbour at Cellardykes…

Cellardykes harbour

…where Mrs Tootlepedal remarked on the interesting way in which the harbour wall is constructed…

Cellardykes harbour

…before heading back to Anstruther and the chip shop.

The fish and chips lived up to their reputation.

After tea, I popped out to see if there were any flying birds about and took the opportunity to point the zoom lens across the Forth towards the Bass Rock, site of  a world famous gannet  colony.

Bass Rock

It was only when I looked at the picture on the computer that I realised just how many windmills there are on the hills to the south of the Forth.

Sadly, the forecast doesn’t suggest that the next few days will match the first one as far any sunshine goes but we hope for the best.

A local gull obliged by gliding past to become the flying bird of the day.

flying gull

 

 

Butterflies

These are some of the sights that we saw when we visited Butterfly World, just south of Edinburgh.  The biggest and the best of the butterflies that we saw didn’t settle for a moment so there are no pictures of them but there was lots to enjoy including some things that definitely weren’t butterflies.  I have put them in a gallery.

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This doesn’t really convey the wonder of seeing the air filled with exotic creatures floating past you but it will have to do.

Today’s guest picture is the ZurichSee, taken this morning.  It was sent me from Zurich by Hilary, Dropscone’s niece, my Zurich correspondent.

ZurichSee

The weather in Langholm could hardly have been more different as it was an absolutely foul day, temperature in low single figures, intermittent heavy showers and a cruel and ruthless wind making life far less than joyful.

goldfinches

The birds were in subdued mood

redpoll

A redpoll, seeing the perches full, chose to go elsewhere rather than start a fight

As such it was a disappointing day to be meeting three charming Americans, Theresa, Teri and Barbara who had come to Langholm to do some family history research.  They had enlisted the help of the Langholm Archive Group and I had sensibly recruited my friend Brenda, a proper archivist and family historian to be on the team.

I picked them up at the local B & B where they were staying and we walked along to the Archive Centre where Brenda presented them with impressive folders of the results of her research.  After some conversation, we drove off to visit Staplegordon graveyard to try to find the gravestone of one of Theresa’s ancestors.

The weather was at its worst and the graveyard, being in an exposed position, gave the wind and the rain every opportunity to find cracks in our defences.  Theresa had sprained her ankle the day before, which didn’t improve matters at all but they battled on.

crossing the field at Staplegordon

Brenda was able to pinpoint the gravestone….

Brenda at Staplegordon

..which also provided a little relief from the gale.

Theresa and Teri

Theresa and Teri posed for the record

We didn’t linger too long as it really wasn’t pleasant at all and we were soon on our way to the Wauchope Graveyard to visit another grave.  Mercifully the rain had let up by the time we got there and after a little looking around, the stone was identified.

Menzies grave

It was beautifully engraved.  This was one time when I could have done with a little less lichen.  Our visitors were very pleased to have found both stones.

Wauchope Churchyard with Theresa

And they coped very well with the hostile weather conditions, only mentioning the contrasting weather in California every ten minutes or so.

We dropped Brenda off (she had business to attend to) and I drove on to visit other spots which were of interest to our visitors as they had appeared in a memoir of Langholm in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century written by an ancestor.

We visited Broomholm…

mossy wall Broomholm

…Skippers Bridge (site of childhood exploit involving an owl)…

Skippers Bridge

…where in spite of the rain, the water was low enough to allow Teri and Barbara and me to get right down to the waterside to photograph the bridge.

I liked the view through the bridge.

Langholm Distillery

I pointed out to Teri that it was illegal for a person with a camera in hand to cross the bridge without taking a picture of the distillery and she duly obeyed this iron law.

Langholm Distillery

We ended our short tour by visiting the Duchess Bridge, which was looking very elegant in spite of the weather.

Duchess Bridge

I took the visitors back to the Eskdale Hotel and dropped them off there for lunch and said goodbye to them.  I would have liked to have had more time to spend with them but I had a good deal of organising to do with Mrs Tootlepedal at home as we are off for a short holiday ourselves tomorrow.

I had a moment to bird watch…

chaffinches

Two chaffinches had sneaked in among the goldfinches.

…but mostly it was nose to the grindstone.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a short and not entirely successful go at a couple of sonatas.  She has family coming to visit tomorrow so perhaps we both had our minds on other things.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

April showers

Today’s guest picture is another interesting thing encountered on her walk with her family through Plessey Woods by my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona.

Plessey Woods

There was a moment of glorious sunshine today but unfortunately for a late riser like myself, it was before breakfast and by the time that I was ready for the world it had turned grey.  At 2°C it was even colder than it has been of late so I was more than happy to welcome Dropscone (with scones) round for a cup of coffee or two.

What happened subsequently was entirely his fault.  He and a friend decided to play golf and as a result, it promptly started sleeting and snowing and then kept this up for the rest of the day until early evening.

This is cause and effect.  I took the winter tyres off our car and the  weather instantly took a turn for the worse.  We bought a barbecue one year and it rained for the whole of the summer.  We just never learn.

The snow didn’t put off the birds who arrived at the feeder in force all day.

busy feeder

 I had to fill the feeders twice.

busy feeder

Some birds had to look carefully to find an empty perch.

siskin and redpoll

I put some time into making a sour dough loaf and by lunchtime, this was the view out of the window.

snowing

The snow came and went but the birds kept on coming…

busy feeder

…and coming.

busy feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal and I got in the car and headed south.  It was snowing as we left and when we got to Carlisle, it was raining there.

On our way, we took my speedy bike into bike shop to get a new chain and cassette fitted  and then we continued into Carlisle for a bit of routine shopping.

When we got home, the rain eased off for a moment so I popped out and took a picture which reflected the day pretty well.

Timpen with snow in April

The snow didn’t even have the decency to give the hills a proper covering, just a miserable grey sprinkling.    It was a day with no redeeming features.

Oddly enough, when I leaned over the Town Bridge after taking that picture, there was a good number of birds flitting over the surface of the river, obviously finding insects to eat in the rain.  I just caught one in the corner of a frame by pointing the camera and hoping.

river birds

I thought they might be swallows at first but they were very brown in colouring when seen from straight above so I am open to suggestions.  House martins?

When I got home, our resident birds were as busy as ever.

busy feeder

Very busy.

busy feeder

Having seen a recipe in a handy booklet. Mrs Tootlepedal made us some falafels for tea which made a change from our usual diet.

Then Susan arrived and I went off for my second trip of the day to Carlisle, this time to play with our recorder group.

In spite of a very gloomy forecast, the rain and snow stayed away and we had an uneventful drive and an excellent play when we got there.

The forecast for tomorrow is much the same as the forecast for today.  Sigh.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

Today’s guest picture harks back to my siblings’ visit at the start of this month and shows Skelwith Force in the Lake District.  It was taken by my sister Mary.

Skelwith Force

Skelwith Force

We had another day of mixed sunshine and showers here with some impressive cloudscapes.  Plans were once again slightly frustrated but the day worked out well enough in the end.

I was due to fill the Moorland bird feeders for some friends who are on holiday and since the light was good when I went up, I was looking forward to spending some productive time in the bird hide there.

However, when I had almost finished filling the feeders, a minibus full of school children drew up and the project leader told me that it was  a school visit.  Plan A went into the bin.

It was still quite bright when I got home so I decided to convert Plan A into Plan B and go and visit the nuthatches but by the time that I had made a pot of coffee for Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, it had clouded over and started to snow.  Plan B hit the bin too.

Plan C involved crosswords, catching up with business and making soup.  It worked well.

I did find a moment to admire an a gymnastic siskin….

siskin

…and watch a siskin and a redpoll circling warily round each other.

siskin and redpoll

After lunch, the skies had cleared.  Although it was still pretty chilly for April (6.5°C), the wind was much calmer than yesterday so I put on many layers and took my slow bike out to give the solid tyre another test.

Needless to say, it started snowing lightly as soon as I left our front gate but rather than junking Plan D, I kept going and was rewarded by a small pool of sunshine which very politely kept pace with me as I pedalled along.  All around there were showers and looming clouds…

clouds at the Kerr

…but for nine of the fourteen miles of my ride, I managed to keep away from them.

I didn’t stop much because it seemed a pity to risk being caught up by the rain but I did like the sight of this young Belted Galloway who was as curious about me as I was about it.

belted galloway

The weather to one side of the road smiled upon a pleasant prospect…

View at Ryehills

…but on the other side, more black clouds loomed.

Clouds at Ryehills

My luck couldn’t hold out for ever and as I ground up to the highest point of my ride, I was overtaken by a hailstorm.

Fortunately, the hail was the softest and most gentle that I have ever met so I was spared getting painfully pinged and because it was hail rather than snow, I didn’t even get very wet. To make matters better, I soon cycled through it and came out on the other side.

Since the sun was out again, I stopped at my favourite little cascade on the Wauchope to show that although the weather has been very cold lately, we haven’t anything serious in the way of continuous rain for several weeks and the rivers are very low.

Wauchope cascade

This was a different view taken last December after two solid months of downpours.

wauchope cascade

The low water let me get a close shot of the deformed rocks beside the river…

wauchope rocks

…and a look down stream to a more peaceful stretch.

Wauchope below Bessie Bells

The birds had been very busy at the garden feeders and I had to fill them when I got home.

As well as a bird on every perch and more waiting on the pole and in the plum tree, there was a huge squad of scavengers on the ground too.

scavenging birds

I can count thirty birds here.  There were often more than fifty in the garden at once

The garden was very pleasant, sheltered from the wind and bathed in occasional sunshine.

Flowers competed for attention.

pulsatilla

A pulsatilla

Drumstick primulas

Drumstick primulas

Mrs Tootlepedal had painted our back stairs in the morning and was busy in the garden in the afternoon so she was quite ready for a cup of tea after I had had a shower.

Dr Tinker, whose tea detecting system was working perfectly, arrived just in time to join us.  He is going to look after Mrs Tootlepedal’s greenhouse plants next week while we are taking a short break from Langholm life.

As we sipped, we looked out of the window and saw some quite heavy snow so I was pleased with the timing of my ride.  The ground is warm enough and the snow showers short enough that we haven’t had problems with snow settling.

The sun was soon out again and when I was upstairs, I took the opportunity to lean out of an upper window and get a different angle on the birds.

goldfinches and siskins

I suppose that I was having a bird’s eye view from up above.

goldfinches and siskins

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted out her onions and is protecting them against the inclement weather with a row of cloches.  I could see them out of my window too.

onion cloches

In the evening, we went to sing with our Langholm choir and  had a good time getting some polish on pieces which we are going to sing in two concerts next month.

With four choral engagements, two with the Langholm choir and two with the Carlisle choir, in the next two months, we have plenty of homework to do.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches that I looked down on.

flying goldfinch

 

 

 

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