Today’s picture was going to be the first snowdrop to flower in the garden but I forgot to take the picture so here’s a standard siskin instead.
The continuing mild winter weather has meant that siskins have been few and far between this year. This is a disappointment to me because they are among my favourite birds. Of course the mild weather has its upside and Dropscone and I were able to go round the morning route today in comparative comfort. It rained at the start and finish but was brilliantly sunny for most of the trip.
Because I was on the slow bike, I spent quite a lot of time watching Dropscone vanish into the distance. I am not at my peak at the moment, being overweight and suffering from slight breathing impairment in the very humid atmosphere we have got at the moment. The result was a slow ride but any moping over this was swept away by a cup of coffee and two of Dropscone’s excellent girdle scones and I faced the rest of the day with optimism – probably, a bit too much optimism as it turned out.
Mrs Tootlepedal had been watching the sparrowhawk in the walnut tree while we were out and this may explain why there so few birds about in the garden. The presence of the gardener, hard at work, may have discouraged them too.
Because of the lack of things to see in the garden, after lunch I put on my heavy boots, packed up the camera and set off to the hills…or to be more specific, Whita Hill.
It was a beautiful day and I was soon past the golf course and onto the rough ground. I stopped to take a picture of the cairn that was erected at Whita Well to commemorate 250 years of the Common Riding.
There is a bench there for elderly people to rest on but I paused only to show the view from the bench…
…and strode out along the old track to the quarries on the side of the hill.
It is a gentle walk, rewarding the walker with grand prospects.
At the end of the track, another bench has been put out for those needing a rest and time to take in the view.
Once again, I scorned the chance of a sit down and contented myself with a quick glance at the view from the bench.
At this point the track ends at a wall which leads back down towards the south end of the town.
A sensible man who has dodgy knees and who has already cycled 21 miles would at this point have followed the wall back home. I am not that man. I stopped to take a picture of part of the quarry…
…scrambled over the wall and headed on up the hill. The ground was steep and tussocky and my legs were less happy about the chosen route than the rest of me was. Still, I soldiered on and came to the top of the ridge. I could see the plain spread out below me as far as the start of the Eden valley and the northern English hills.
I headed left towards the monument on the summit of the hill and from there I could see sunbathed hills all around although the sun had retired from Whita itself.
There was a brisk wind on the top and it was chilly enough to persuade me not to linger too long but for interest, I got out my little x2 zoom extender and had a look at the back of our house from a mile away. I was hoping to catch Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden.
The strong breeze and my fading eyesight made it difficult to hold the camera as steady as I would like and to get the focus correct. I would have to take a tripod up if I was going to do a proper job of it. I could see the windmills at Minsca and had a shot at them.
I was shooting into the sun which accounts for the strange colour but seeing that these windmills are the best part of ten miles away, I think the lens did well. If you look at the picture at full size, you can not only see a pylon behind the windmills but even the wire coming from it. This summer, I will have to take a little time to see if I can use it to take pictures of birds or animals which otherwise would not be possible.
I packed everything up and started down the face of the hill. By the time I got back to Whita Well, my legs were well past their sell-by date and I suffered the indignity of slipping over and giving myself a very wet bottom and a sore knee. Still no real damage was done and I walked very carefully the rest of the way home.
There was no doubt however that I had overstretched my leg’s capacity to walk on rough ground and I spent most of the rest of the day grumbling to Mrs Tootlepedal about various aches and pains. I did stop grumbling for long enough to give young Luke his flute lesson and I was delighted to find that he had been practising. Not only had he been practising but he had been improving as well which doesn’t always follow as it is quite easy to practise but not improve because you are practising doing things wrong. My golfing career is evidence of that. He seems to be really enjoying playing which is great to see.
My daughter Annie, pleased because I had used a recipe which she had sent me for making a loaf by traditional methods, has now sent me a whole book of recipes. I thought I had better try something out and made a batch of what was called soft baps. They came out rather darker than I was expecting…
.. but they certainly pass the taste test. I am going to cook them on a lower heat next time.
I leave you with a picture of one of the few birds to be about today.
I am going to bed now and I am going to groan very quietly so as not to disturb Mrs Tootlepedal.