Archive for May, 2012

Today’s picture was taken by Dropscone while on a solo bike ride the other day.  The jumble of roofs conceals the fine school where I spent thirteen years of my teaching life.

Canonbie School

Today our daughter went home and in sympathy, the sun refused to come out for the first time on our holiday.  Luckily, it was still quite warm enough to be pleasant.  We were slightly delayed when we were about to leave for the station by an arrival on an electricity pole on the far side of the field.

green woodpecker

A green woodpecker.  I wish that I had had time to get the big lens out.

We saw Annie off at the the station in Frome and then headed up to Bath to tread in the footsteps of Jane Austen, though I don’t suppose that she used the Park and Ride bus as we did.

We visited the Roman Baths first….

Baths entrance

…but although there was a gentle steam rising from the waters, we didn’t fancy a dip in this…

Aquae Sulis

…so we settled for coffee and a Bath bun in the Pump Room instead.  We were entertained by a very tasteful string trio while we sipped and felt very pampered with waitress service at tables with shining white cloths under glittering chandeliers.

We strolled out of the Pump Room with a superior air  and walked down to Bath Abbey which has had a life of successive dilapidation and restoration.  It is now a parish church and looks very fine.

Bath Abbey

We continued down to the river where we admired the covered Poulteney Bridge over the Avon.

Poulteney Bridge

I also admired the horseshoe weir in the river below the bridge.


From the river, we walked uphill to the Assembly Rooms.  This had a modest entrance for such an important element of Bath’s social life.

assembly rooms

The main room was in use so we walked on to the Royal Circus.  Sadly, it had no jugglers or tightrope walkers but it did have an elegant circle of houses.

Royal Circus

Just past the Circus, we came to the most celebrated street in the city, the Royal Crescent.

Royal Crescent

This certainly has a most impressive facade and even the terrace ends are built like temples.

royal crescent

I liked the general view of the street but I found the houses rather oppressive and unsympathetic close to with their huge blocks of stone.

We turned back and walked back down to our bus stop along Walcot Street, described as an artisan quarter and home to many nice furniture shops, the prices in which give some indication of how much money is washing round this part of the world in these hard times.  We were both struck by how much parts of Bath resemble Edinburgh.

Tall streets

The colour of the stone is the biggest difference.

After the purchase of a sandwich, we caught the park and ride bus back to our car where we ate the sandwiches. Then we drove to Radstock and got the bikes out of the back of the car.  There are three bike paths leading out of Radstock, all on old railway lines so we were spoiled for choice.  We chose to take the Greenway to Midsomer Norton first.


In fairness to Mrs Tootlepedal’s trim figure, I should point out that a stiff breeze in our faces was inflating her yellow jacket when I took this picture.  A firm gravel surface made for good cycling.  The end of the track decanted us rather abruptly on a very busy main road but we managed to navigate safely to Midsomer Norton’s handsome high Street.

Midsomer Norton

A river runs through it.

We struggled through busy roads back to the Greenway and returned to Radstock with the wind behind us.  This wheel in the centre of the town celebrates Radstock’s coal mining heritage.


We rode past it and on to National Cycle Route 24 which goes to Frome along another old railway line.

This one was surfaced with tarmac and in very good condition. We think it must have been a double track at one time because to one side of our path, you could see a complete railway line emerging occasionally from the long grass.

path and rails

The design on the track is an artwork relating to the human genome.

We spotted yet another handsome church and left the line to go and look at it.

church at Kilmersdon

The church at Kilmersdon

There were piles of cars and vans around it and we saw that they were filming in a garden beside the church.

film lights

The film is called The Other Wife and is being made for TV.  We would be keen to see it when it comes out but we may have to wait a long time as it says on the internet that it is being made for German Television..

After a short and pointless diversion to find another way back onto the track, we retraced our steps (or whatever cyclists do when they go back) and joined the track again.

A bridge

A bridge too far. We turned for home here.

Altogether we cycled eleven miles and after a week of tourist activity, we felt that that was quite enough and drove back to the cottage.  The day was rounded off by a nice meal in the Pub at Vobster.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I have voted this an excellent holiday with something interesting to do and see every day.  Personally, I will need a jolly good lie down when I get home to recover from all the excitement.

Sadly there was absolutely no opportunity to catch a chaffinch of the day today.

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Today’s picture, sent by my son Tony, shows one of the parts for the base of the new Forth Road Crossing being moved up the Forth.  He says that in real life it is absolutely huge.


We had yet another sunny, hot day to enjoy so once again we set out to be full time tourists.  We were keen on visiting a famous garden and looked for something to do on the way to it.  We found another prominent tor to walk up, this time near Warminster.  It is called Cley Hill and although it is higher than Glastonbury Tor, it offered us an easier walk as the car park was itself higher above sea level.  The back roads round the cottage are a treat to drive along, with little traffic and flower filled hedgerows and the drive there was another treat in itself.

There was only one other car in the car park but we didn’t see the driver and the only person we did meet was a foreign cyclist carrying his bike down the bumpy path from the hill. He assured us that we could easily spend all day on the hill and we nodded politely but without conviction.

The hill was chalk and looked inviting…

Cley Hill

…and so it proved.

strolling up the hill

We walked through meadows of wild flowers until we met the guardian of the summit.

summit crow

He kindly allowed us up and we were able to enjoy the panoramic views.

Looking over Little Cley Hill

Looking over Little Cley Hill

Although the hill is not very high (245m), it stands out from the surrounding country and the views are breathtaking even on a hazy day.

view from the hill

The hill was once a fort and the earthworks are still visible but the hill itself has never been ploughed and as a result, it has a great variety of plant and animal life on it.

Mrs Tootlepedal in a meadow

Mrs Tootlepedal in the hilltop meadow.

As we walked, we were surrounded by swifts swooping and swirling above us across the sky.  They were too quick for me.


Under foot we were walking across a rich carpet of flowers.

meadow flowers

Among the flowers were many little butterflies and moths of all colours.




The prettiest were the Common Blues.  Annie took the best picture of one.

common blue

We came to the conclusion that the foreign cyclist had been right and that we could have spent all day just wandering around the hill.  It was like the best remembered days of summer childhood outings.

But the famous garden called us and we walked off the hill.  As we went, we looked back and were given a view of the hawthorn in blossom on the lower slopes…


…and hunters hunting.


A kestrel swooped on its prey as we watched.


A buzzard circled above.

The time on the hill was all the more pleasurable for being so unexpected.  We had come just with the hope of a good view with no idea that we would be visiting an airy paradise.

We got back in the car and headed off to the famous garden at Stourhead which modestly bills itself as the most important landscape garden in Britain.  We drove across the downs, past fields of blue flax in the valley bottom to get there. We were eager to be impressed by the garden but we stoked up with a light lunch before embarking on our tour.  Once again, we didn’t really know what to expect and we all probably had in mind some sweep of parkland in front of a great house. In fact, the house is grand but not overbearing…

Stourhead House

The house

…and far being a park, it turned out the makers of the garden had dammed a stream in a narrow valley to make a lake and surrounded it with shrubs and trees.  Among other trees, 12,800 sweet chestnuts were planted during a single year in Victorian times.  For once, we had arrived at a garden at just the right time to admire the rhododendrons and azaleas that bloomed among the trees.


They were glorious and if I had had all day and an unlimited blog, I could have spent the whole time snapping different colours, shapes and sizes.


But there were many other things to point the camera at, as the garden maker had placed temples at strategic points round the lake and carefully cleared vistas through the trees to reveal them to us.

The boathouse

The boathouse

Temple of Apollo

The temple of Apollo

Temple of Flora

Temple of Flora

The Bristol Cross

The Bristol Cross

The temple of Apollo again

The temple of Apollo again

As well as temples, there were bridges…


.. a grotto made of tufa from Italy…


..a gothic hermit’s cottage…

gothic cottage

.. and fortunately for the now somewhat weary visitors, a cafe with tea and scones.

What a day out it was. The drive home through the Wiltshire and Somerset back roads was the icing on the cake.  We slumped onto the sofa when we got to the cottage but recovered enough after a light meal to take a walk through the village.  I wisely left my cameras behind.  If I hadn’t, this blog, which is already too long, would never finish.

We went to look for two surviving arches of an aqueduct for a long disused canal and continued beneath them through the fields beyond.  The land seems to be lightly farmed around the village and as a result, the fields are full of wild flowers and a pleasure to walk through. We returned to the cottage by going past a fine mill building and then walking back through woods down the stream which goes past it.

We will sleep well tonight.

The chaffinch of the day is a surprise woodpecker which appeared outside the cottage while we were eating out tea.










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Today’s picture is a parakeet from my daughter’s garden in London.  She says that they are very noisy.


Another hot, sunny day in the south led us to have a second go at visiting Glastonbury Tor.  Once again the official car park remained elusive but we found a space in a building lot and set off up the 500 ft high hill.  In the end, the steepness proved too much for my vertigo and I left the ladies to go higher while I circumnavigated the hill at a lower level.

Even at the level I walked, there were splendid views in all directions.

glastonbury Tor



Strange people appeared at the summit of the hill looking down at me.

ladies on Tor

There were other things on the hill to watch as well.


Annie took this picture of Mrs Tootlepedal admiring the tower.

the tower on the tor

I took this picture of a fine pair of hats on a bench after the descent of the climbers from the summit.

hats on tor

They were waiting for me while I investigated a bird which was flitting about in the grass.


Surprisingly, it turned out to be a woodpecker.

We left the Tor and went into the town where we enjoyed a vegetarian lunch before visiting the ruins of the Abbey.


It must have been enormous when it was all there.

This building was the Abbot’s kitchen.  Not the Abbey’s kitchen…just the Abbot’s.  Lucky man.

abbot's kitchen

A view of our morning walk from the abbey grounds.

A big fish in a small pond.


This was Annie’s view of the same giant.


It was strange. Little fish swam about while the bigger ones stuck their snouts up through the weed.

The oldest part of the abbey.


I had an opportunity to see some unusual birds as a birds of prey centre had a tent in the grounds.

birds of prey

They sat so still that they looked like statues.

But they were alive and flapping.

bird of prey

We left the Abbey and Glastonbury behind and headed for a nearby National Trust garden.  It is called Lytes Cary and is attached to a charming small manor house.


They were big on topiary


There was a beautiful flower border too.

the house

old folk

Old people resting (Annie’s photo)


Annie resting

Front of house

The house

We had a look round inside the house.  I thought that it was rather dark and gloomy but the hall had a wonderful ceiling.


There was a cafe too and so we were able to discharge the most important duty of a day out by taking a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  While we did so, swallows whizzed by our heads into the loft of the barn where we were sitting.


Then it was time to make for home (along the Fosse way, an old Roman road, for some of the way) and a good sit down after quite a heavy day on the feet.

We ate in and snoozed gently for the rest of the evening.

The chaffinch of the day is the woodpecker from Glastonbury.



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Today’s picture is another from my sister Susan’s trip to Zagreb.


It was another scorching day down in England’s deep south.  I stared out of the window after breakfast looking for birds in vain.  This sleek, well fed beast might have something to do with that by the look of it.


We sat in the shade until it was time for coffee and then we put the bikes in the car and set off for Frome where we were due to pick our daughter Annie up at the station.  We got there early and had time to explore the town.  It turned out to be a well preserved place with a number of bridges of all shapes and sizes across the River Frome which runs through the centre of the town.

bridge in Frome

I liked this one in particular

We thought this pub looked quite impressive as did the cyclist who was hauling a child up the steep slope.

Sun Inn, Frome

Although some of the old town was demolished for slum clearance, good sense prevailed and much of it has been preserved and renovated.   Somehow or other a policy has been adopted which has led to a profusion of small independent shops in the narrow streets and as a result the town has got a lot more character than other towns of its size with their regimented retail chain shops.

We had a look in a fine church and found it full of green branches for the Whit season.


I have never seen this custom before.

We made our way to Frome Station and discovered this has not fared so well as the rest of the town.

Frome station

We were amused when an automated voice announced that the next train would arrive at platform one.  It arrived and left on time and the Annie’s train arrived on time but without Annie.  I thought that this was probably the moment to switch on my mobile phone and promptly discovered that her mainline train from London had been delayed and she had missed her connection.  This was no great matter as she was only six miles away so we drove on to pick her up.

Fortunately this was in the direction that we had intended to go anyway  and we picked her up and headed for Bradford upon Avon.  This is a charming town on the River Avon and more importantly for us, on the Kennet and Avon Canal as well.

We had lunch beside it.

canal boat

There was a fair bit of traffic while we ate.

We were eating at the Lock Inn so called because it is right below a lock on the canal.

lock at Bradford

It also has a bike hire shop so after we had finished lunch, we hired a bike for Annie and set off along the towpath.  The first thing we saw was this very smartly renovated monastic barn, one of the best in the country.


It was built in the 14th century and remained in use until well into the twentieth century.

We pedalled gently along the towpath with the Avon river below us and on our right. After a couple of miles, the contours dictated that we should be on the right of the river not the left and so we crossed a fine aqueduct.  Then we realised that the towpath was now on the other side of the canal and so we crossed back and dived down underneath it…


The path under the aqueduct.

…before crossing it again, now on the towpath side.


The towpath was generally lined with trees and blessedly cool.

ladies in hats on the towpath

Towpath with bridge

After about five miles we came to another aqueduct, the Dundas.

Dundas Aqueduct

Across this we came to the basin where the Somerset Coal Canal meets the Kennet and Avon.

canal basin

We turned along the Coal Canal, although we had to take a diversion as the very first section goes through a private garden.

Dundas Aqueduct

The canal is now derelict but a small section is used for a mooring basin and it has a cafe there.  We stopped at the cafe.  While we were sipping our tea, a train went by.  You can see from the picture that it is no surprise that the canal and railway line are close together as the valley is steep and narrow at this point.


Of course it was the coming of the railways that signalled the end of the canal age.

Refreshed by tea and cake, we pedalled home and returned the hire bike.  It had been an exceptionally pleasant ten mile ride.

Then it was time to drive back to the cottage through the green countryside and get ready to go out for a meal.  We found another pub a few  miles from the cottage which served excellent food and that rounded off a very good day.  What with the sun, the food and the pedalling, it was an early night all round.

The chaffinch of the day is a wagtail, carefully tiptoeing outside our patio doors this morning, hoping to escape the notice of the fat cat.




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As a memory of the country I have temporarily left behind me, today’s picture is of a monument overlooking Lilliardsedge golf in the borders course where Dropscone was playing in a competition.

Golf Seniors 2012 015

It was yet another hot and sunny day here and I celebrated this by cycling very slowly up the steep hill to the village shop to get a Sunday paper. I then went on a tiny excursion round the quiet lanes before enjoying the trip back down the steep hill by another route.  Then I stared out of the window and noted a blackbird in a nearby tree.


The well developed leaves are making catching birds rather tricky here but the picture does give a fair impression of the lush green vegetation that surrounds us here.

After a while, we stirred our stumps, put the bikes in the car and set out to be tourists again.  Our drive took us along the top of a ridge with expansive views to both sides but the views ended as we entered a winding valley.


As well as being an expert navigator, Mrs Tootlepedal was our in-car photographer today.  This unassuming start gives no hint of the grand spectacle to come as we plunged into the Cheddar Gorge.  The gorge towers above the car on both sides and defeated our efforts to capture it with the camera.




But we still tried. It is a short but spectacular experience and I would recommend a visit if you get the opportunity.

We went on through the exceeding pretty town of Axbridge, which we had cycled through on our end to end cycle jaunt a few years ago, and then hit the sea side at Burnham-on-Sea.  We had gone there because the map offered us a five mile cycle path right along the shore and we fancied a gentle pedal with a sea view.  After failing to find the path and cycling illegally by accident on the promenade, we gave up and bought a sandwich for our lunch.  Then I noticed a pole on the beach with a national cycle route sign on it and we realised that the reason that the route ran so close to the sea was because it was actually on the beach.  We were slightly alarmed that pole with the route number also had a sign on it warning of dangerous sinking sands but we took our courage in both hands and took the cycles down a ramp and onto the beach where we sat and fortified ourselves with our sandwich before setting out.

Burnham-on-Sea is on an estuary and has one of those beaches that are mainly vast stretches of mud when the tide is out as it was today.  It also boasts of the shortest pier in Britain.

Burnham pier

We sat on the rather forbidding sea defences to have our lunch.

sea defences

Our route stretched into the distance.

burnham beach

All in all it is not the most beautiful beach in the world.  Anyway, we pedalled off, trying to find the bits of the beach where the sand was firmest and we made surprisingly good progress, although at times it was hard work.

We passed this elegant structure which I think is a lighthouse.

burnham building

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal skimming away across the sand while I extricated myself from a soft spot.

sand skimming

After plugging away across increasingly deserted sands for about three miles, we suddenly came across about 100 cars parked on the beach and the accompanying families playing football, paddling, eating sausage burgers, arguing, sleeping and doing all the other things that you do when having fun on a featureless waste.  Realising that if cars had got onto the beach, then we could get off, we found an exit road and cycled through the dunes and onto welcome tarmac.  We cycled further along the coast, finding ourselves in the midst of queues of cars, hundreds of pedestrians and innumerable caravan parks and holiday camps.  It was not an entirely enjoyable experience and we soon gave up and pedalled back to Burnham along the road.

Luckily for us  the heat of the sun was dimmed by a sea haze while we cycled along the beach as you can see from this picture of Steep Holm off the shore…

steep holm

…so we didn’t get boiled.

It is a bit of a mystery to me as to why this place became such a popular holiday destination in the first place.  But it did and now it is has funfairs, fast food joints and crazy golf to fill in the time when sitting on the beach waiting for the sea to come into sight palls.

We packed the bikes back into the car and drove along part of our end to end route just to remind ourselves what it was like and then rounded off the day by driving up the Cheddar Gorge in the opposite direction on the way home. Almost every crag seemed to have a climber hanging from it as we passed.

For our tea we ate the asparagus which we had purchased at Wells yesterday.  It was very tasty.

I spent a little time looking out of the window.

The pygmy goats came nosing and bleating around again.



They were very curious

There are fewer birds than I had hoped for but there are plenty of sparrows..


Both house…


…and hedge varieties.

Swallows flashed by, almost too quick for the camera.


I took a picture of the small holding we are on.  It looks like the archetypal English small farm from a picture book for children.

Hippy's Farm

The chaffinch of the day is a hard won sparrow.  They are particularly speedy round here.

flying sparrow

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Today’s picture is of Glastonbury Tor.  It was not taken by me.


It was another breathtakingly hot day today.  After breakfast, we walked up the three quarters of a mile of very steep hill into the village to buy a newspaper and stretch our legs.  The old part of the village seemed to have been built on the steepest part of the hill.  We enjoyed this old Sunday School built in 1843.

sunday school coleford

On our way back home, this fine goat caught our eye.


Note the large duck or goose in the pen on the right. It will reappear.

As you can see from the pictures, the light was very bright and the heat matched it so we spent a lazy morning reading the paper and drinking coffee.  Finally, after a sandwich for lunch, we set out in the car to be tourists.  There are a maze of tiny roads round Coleford and navigating them requires expert map reading and even the skills of Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t keep us entirely on our chosen route but we arrived at the cathedral city of Wells without serious delay.

The town was busy with locals and visitors shopping at the market in the town centre and looking at the famous cathedral.  We knew we were in a tourist hot spot when we saw a shop which reminded us of home.


In spite of its name, the company is based in Langholm.

The cathedral was very imposing from the outside.

Wells cathedral

It has an amazing number of carvings all over the facade.

carvings Wells cathedral

Inside, it was surprisingly light and airy.

ceiling Wells cathedral

East end Wells cathedral

The chapter house has a very fine roof with many ribs.

chapter house roof

We took advantage of a nice cafe attached to the cathedral to have the cup of tea and toasted teacake without which no day out is complete and then admired a bit more of the extensive carvings…

Wells cathedral

…before walking round to look at the bishop’s house.  He turns out to live in a castle surrounded by a moat.

bishop's palace

Nice work if you can get it.

I enjoyed the building which is elegant inside and impressive outside but in my small minded way I see these things as extravagances which the powerful have always either in time or money taxed the powerless to build.  This feeling was encouraged by frequent notices saying the the place costs £4000 a day to maintain and exhorting us to give as much money as we could afford.   I would allow it to descend to romantic ruination and build a more affordable home for its functions, remembering the proposition that the meek are blessed.

We returned to the car, buying some cherries and asparagus as we went, and set off to look at Glastonbury Tor which was not far away, with a view to a possible stroll to the summit.  In the end, the heat of the day and the distance of the car park from the Tor made us decide to pass it by without stopping.   Hence someone else’s picture at the top of the blog.  We might try again later in the week when the weather is set to get a bit cooler.

On arrival at the cottage, I spent some time looking for birds.  Although we are deep in the country and the owner has two bird feeders out, there was very little traffic.

I saw a passing swallow.


And a wagtail visited for a moment.


But the most interesting things to see where the two young pygmy goats which have just arrived on the farm.



Otherwise I had to make do with the charm of the surroundings…


The mill stream gurgles past our windows.

…and the occasional sparrow.


In the evening, we drove over to the pub to which we cycled yesterday and enjoyed an excellent meal.  For once the size of the portions exactly matched our appetites.  Usually these days, they give you far too much on the plate.

When we got home, I couldn’t resist a shot of the moon as darkness fell.


The chaffinch of the day was that large red faced duck or goose which we saw earlier in the day, creeping shiftily on tiptoe across the meadow in front of the house in the gloaming.

bird creeping

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Today’s picture shows the Croatian parliament building in Zagreb.  It is from my sister Susan and I thought that you would like to see it.

The Croatian parliament meets here on the left

We started our day by catching the park and ride bus back into the centre of Ludlow because Mrs Tootlepedal had noticed a promising bookshop which might have the book she wished to read on her holiday.  Once again, we marvelled at the charm of the town.  It is built up all sides of a hill towards the castle and church on the top so many roads are uphill work for the pedestrian.


We found the book and we didn’t dally long and were soon back in the car heading south.  It was another very hot day and the country was covered in a haze which promised thunder storms but in the event, the further south we went, the clearer the skies became.

We made our way through Hereford and Monmouth (just missing the Olympic torch relay) and then headed down the richly wooded valley of the Dee.  I have often seen this on TV as it is a famous beauty spot but it was even better in real life, with richly wooded, steep escarpments on each side of the river.  We stopped for refreshment for spirit and body at the ruins of Tintern Abbey, much loved by the poet Wordsworth, though whether he enjoyed the scones in the cafe, history doesn’t relate.  We did.

The Abbey is built on the banks of the Wye.

River Dee

It looks sluggish but it was flowing vigourously.

The Abbey is an impressive ruin and must have been a magnificent building at its peak.  I took a great many pictures.  I have tried to cut them down to a reasonable number.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

This shows the bank behind the Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Then Mrs Tootlepedal took the wheel as I am allergic to heights and the Severn bridge was looming up.

severn bridge

This is the older of the two bridges.

Since Mrs Tootlepedal was driving, I was doing the map reading and I managed to get us comprehensively lost when we left the motorway but in the end we recovered the correct route and headed for Radstock where we stopped to visit the museum.  It is currently housing a very considerable exhibition of quilts, some of which were beautiful indeed.  The overwhelming feeling of seeing the exhibition to me was not just the pleasure in the colour and the design but the awestruck respect for the staggering amount of work the quilts represented.

I took pictures of a few of the quilts.  It is rather a random selection because the museum was crowded and it was not always possible to take the pictures that I wanted.


The modern and traditional hanging side by side


A large quilt hanging from the ceiling


My favourite

We visited the local co-op to stock up with provisions for the week and then wound our way through some narrow lanes to find the cottage.

Leat Cottage

We were absolutely delighted with the place.  It is a purpose built holiday cottage and it is so nice that Mrs Tootlepedal says she doesn’t want to go home.  The bikes are parked in the handy little shed in front.  As its name would suggest, it lies on a mill leat or stream so in that respect it is just like having the dam at home.  It is a little more rural though.


The view from the window

After we had settled in, we got the bikes out and cycled up one of the many hills around us and down the other side to a place with the unusual sounding name of Vobster.  This had a pub where we enjoyed a half pint of the local beer.


Mrs Tootlepedal finds a bit of shade

It was a bit annoying to find that the pub was on the same little stream as our cottage but that there was no route along the stream and the trip up and down hill had been entirey gratuitous from a contour point of view.  The stream was very pretty though.


And there was a fine thatched house across the road.

thatched cottage

Then of course, we had to cycle back up the hill and down to the cottage again.  That was quite enough fun for the day.

Today’s chaffinch is played by an inquisitive goat from the farm.


As this is a holiday, I am not reading my e-mails while I am away.

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