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Archive for April, 2013

Today’s picture shows one of the pygmy goats that graze outside the windows of our cottage.

pygmy goat

We certainly didn’t let the grass grow under our feet today.  We got up and had breakfast, put our bikes in the car, made a packed lunch,  researched our chosen route on the internet, found the right maps,  went out to leave, went back in to get all the things that we had forgotten to put in the car and finally started on our way as early as about a quarter to eleven.

The late start served us well though because when we arrived at Wellow and looked for a cup of coffee in the pub there…

Fox and badger, Wellow

…the landlady was kind enough to serve us although they weren’t officially quite open.  After our coffee, we got the bikes out of the car and set off along a cycle track in the general direction of the City of Bath.  Our intention was to try out the newly opened ‘Two Tunnels Greenway’ into the city.

The first part of our trip took us along an old railway track on National Cycle Route 24.

route 24

We had our photo taken by two cyclists who were on the same route.

elderly cyclists

In spite of the sun it was still quite cool (which is more than can be said of the appearance of the cyclists).

The cyclists were taking a day off from going to their local diving club.  Its home is one of the many old quarries in the district.  They dive almost every day and told us that last Christmas Day over 100 Santa Clauses had turned up for a celebration dive.   The mind boggles.

The railway track surface wasn’t bad but it was as nothing compared to the newly surfaced track that we found when we got to the Two Tunnels part of the route.  This was off road cycling in luxury.

track

A typical section of the new track

The track was being well used by walkers, runners and cyclists.

Here we see Mrs Tootlepedal about to venture into the first tunnel.  It is a mile long!

Two Tunnels

The (w)hole thing was amazing.

tunnel

It wasn’t quite as bright as the camera makes it look but it was a treat to cycle along and from time to time, hidden loudspeakers gave us a musical accompaniment.

The second tunnel was shorter at 300m but it was just as much fun to go through.  We were given a belated welcome when we came out of the tunnel.

Two Tunnels

The greenway ended rather abruptly in side streets of Bath with no suggestions as how to go on.  We were aiming to complete a circle by cycling through the centre of the city and catching the canal tow-path for the return so we set off tentatively down hill on the grounds that the river must be at the bottom of the hill.  This turned out to be true and by good fortune we found the route along the river bank that we were aiming for.  This was part of another national cycle route and some excellent signing took us painlessly slap through the centre of Bath….

Bath Terrace

Just one of the fine streets that we passed.

…and out of the other side and decanted us safely onto the canal bank.

canal

The Kennet and Avon canal is a mixture of beauty and the beast.  There are wonderful willows, geometrical bridges, very tatty boats which people live on permanently and endless dogs running about giving the need for the dog poo bin you can see in the foreground.   Luckily the dogs gave us no trouble…

Dundas Aqueduct

…and we arrived at the Dundas Aqueduct which was our destination for this part of the journey.  We had been here, coming from the other direction, last year so we knew that at the end of this short cut, which was originally part of the Somerset Coal Canal…

cut Monckton

…there was a café.  We stopped there for a cuppa and a toasted teacake shared between us.  We read a pamphlet while we were sipping our tea which suggested we should visit the fine weir and the historic mill at Limpley Stoke near by.  As it was still such a nice day and Limpley Stoke is such a alluring name, we decided to take their advice and visit the weir.  Sadly this was the closest we could get to the weir…

weir

This is the River Avon

…and the historic mill had been converted to an office block so we returned to the canal a bit miffed.  When we got back to the Dundas Aqueduct, we left the canal for good and pedalled along some very quiet back roads to complete our circle.

Back roads

You can’t get a much nicer back road to pedal along than this.

Then we got back onto the old railway track and headed back to Wellow.

Track

This track is part of a route known as the Colliers Way after the many coal mines in the district.

We had noticed this construction by the side of the track on our outward journey….

stones

We had thought that it was just another of the frequently unintelligible art works which tend to crop up on cycle tracks but closer inspection of a notice board beside it….

strata

…showed that it was a representation of the geological strata of the surrounding country and a tribute to William Smith, the father of English geology, a local man who had worked as a surveyor in the mines and was able to date the strata he found there by the fossils in them.

We got back to Wellow after twenty miles of first class cycling and gave a silent vote of thanks to Sustrans, the cycling advocates who had been the driving force behind the cycle trails we had used.

Mrs Tootlepedal was full of energy even after pedalling up a 1 in 7 (14%) climb back into the village and suggested a drive to visit the town centre of Bradford on Avon.  We have been to Bradford twice but only as far as the canal basin and she felt the town itself would be worth a visit.  It turned out to be a very charming place but absolutely stuffed with traffic.

Originally a settlement round a ford (Broad-ford), a packhorse bridge was built in Norman times and this is the basis of the modern bridge which was widened in the 17th century.

bridge bradford

The town grew wealthy on the wool trade and this building was the last working textile mill in the town…

Mill

…and it has now been converted into apartments for the elderly.

The town is a mixture of old and irregular buildings…

Tea rooms

Victorian tea rooms in a 17th century building

and smart Georgian rectangular buildings.  Some fine mills complete the picture.  The town is built on the side of a hill and like many a northern mill town has a selection of winding narrow back roads, ginnels and stairs.

bradford

 

We walked back to our car passing this magnificent magnolia on the way.

Magnolia

And just to show that not all railway tracks are now cycle paths, I took this shot on Bradford Station platform.

Bradford

No flying bird picture today as I had no opportunity to take one.

 

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Today’s picture was sent to me by Langholm exile Fiona and shows her Newcastle community choir helping a proposal of marriage on its way.  The proposal was accepted.

vott proposal

Down here, in the deep south, we had a welcome sunny day, although it was by no means warm.  Still, it seemed like a good day to go to the seaside so we set off due south and only stopped when we got to Lyme Regis.

Lyme Regis

We had purchased sandwiches on our way and sat down to eat them on a bench overlooking the beach, looking exactly like an elderly couple on holiday at the seaside.  A gull stood beside us and waited for its moment.  I put down my sandwich on the bench between Mrs Tootlepedal and myself while I trained my camera on a pair of cormorants…

cormorants

When I looked round, the gull had pounced and my sandwich was gone.  I am posting a set of pictures which record this unhappy event in the hope that a reader will recognise the criminal.  If they do, they should get in touch with Dorset police at once.

gull thief

After our (very light) lunch, we strolled along the harbour.  The receding tide had left the boats grounded on mud.  They looked to be arranged haphazardly as we approached but as we walked round, we could see that there was order.

harbour

At the end of the harbour, a small fishing boat was attracting the traditional congregation of gulls as it dealt with its catch.

Fishing boat

From the end of the harbour wall, I looked back to the town.

Lyme Regis

Leaving the harbour we walked along the beach.  The beach huts are well protected from the blasts and I fancy doing a class at the college behind them.

Beach huts

This stretch of shoreline is known as the Jurassic coast and is famous for the large quantity of fossils that can be found there.

fossil hunters

Everyone in the picture above was walking along with their eyes firmly fixed on the rocks beneath their feet.  We joined them and were able to see what the interest was all about.  The lady in the bottom right corner was taking it very seriously and had a little hammer with her.

fossils

The cliffs are made up of many layers of thin rock and as we walked past, we could hear water trickling down them.  Many notices warned us not to go too close to them and we could see a lot of recent rockfalls so we kept well away.  I lifted my eyes for long enough to take a picture of the famous Cobb, the wall that protects the harbour.  It appears in Persuasion by Jane Austen and also has a starring roll in the film of the French Lieutenant’s Woman, though thankfully the weather today was a lot better than in that celebrated scene.

The cobb

We returned to the town and enjoyed a cup of tea and an enormous slice of fruit cake while looking out at the view.  No sooner had a couple left a table in front of us than another audacious gull appeared and tried to make off with the sugar bowl.

gull

I kept a firm hand on my cake while I took a shot of a boat in the bay with the other hand.

boat

The view to the east was very rewarding and I took many shots of it at different times during the day.

coast

Jurassic coast

To give an idea of the scale of the cliffs, I took another picture with two people walking along the beach under them.  You can just make them out on the shoreline in the centre of the picture.

cliffs

Parts of the sea front are obviously quite new but there are occasional flashes of the old town.

down pipe

A handsomely decorated downpipe

After our cake, we pottered back to the car, catching some more shots of Old Lyme Regis as we went.

Strange notice

The warning sign points out a fairly rare driving hazard

Church Street

I like pastel colour washed streets a lot.

When we got back to the car, I took a final shot of a path up one of the cliffs;  a path up which I won’t be walking.

cliff at Lyme

Not the least of the pleasures of the day was the drive to and from the coast.  The roads weren’t busy and the views, especially as we came over the tops of the many hills on our way, were spectacular.  The five miles we spent going at 14 mph behind a tractor on a very bendy road are excepted from this praise.

As always, my in-car navigation system (Mrs Tootlepedal) worked superbly.

The only flying birds I could find today were those gulls.

gulls

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s picture is another of the irritating bird that sits in the field outside our holiday cottage window each morning, just out of decent camera range.

bird

The morning was cold and grey but there was no hint of rain so after a lengthy breakfast, we packed the bikes in the car and set off to Bradford 0n Avon which sits on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Kennet and Avon Canal

National Cycle Route 4 runs along this length of the canal and we set off, well wrapped up, along the tow-path towards Devizes.  Quite a good number of walkers, cyclists and dogs were also using the path and our progress for the first couple of miles was rather stop and start but it didn’t take long until peace descended and we cycled along largely untroubled except by the occasionally rough surface.

A swan on a nest by the canal bank wasn’t bothered by the traffic.  A local remarked that it was Bradford’s most photographed inhabitant and added that she was sitting on six eggs.

swan

Canal boating is big business and we passed several large marinas.

marina

In the cold of an April Sunday though, there was not much traffic going up and down the canal.

We parked by a canal bridge to have a filled roll for an early lunch…

bridge and bike

Then Mrs Tootlepedal pedalled off into the distance.

Mrs Tootlepedal on the tow path

We passed several rather glum looking fisherman with enormous carbon fibre rods and trolleys full of equipment but the most persistent fisherman we saw was this heron…

heron

…which was still standing patiently on the same branch when we returned three hours later.

We met a boater at one of the locks…

boater

…and he was telling us how long it was taking to move along the canal.  We had passed several locks which slow things down but there were also several of these swing bridges to negotiate too.

swing bridge

All this was nothing compared to the huge flight of 16 locks at Caen Hill just before Devizes.

Caen Hill

This is a fantastic feat of engineering and even the recent refurbishment was no mean task.  This is not a staircase where each lock opens directly into the lock below.  Between each look is a short pound with a feeder pond to the side.

lock pound

The view from the top of the flight was impressive.

view from Caen Hill

This was the only hill that we had to climb all day.  I only had my little camera with me so I had to give the wildlife a miss and this was the nearest I could get to three diving ducks.

ducks

We cycled on past the flight of locks to the top of the hill a mile or so further on and then having completed 12 miles we turned back for the return journey.  An impressive display of forget-me-nots and grape hyacinths made me pause for a quick shot.

forget me nots

This started our trip back with a cup of tea and a tea cake at a canal side café and then had a swift descent past 26 locks in two miles.  After that, we were back on the flat for a stiff ten miles into a brisk wind.  Although canal tow path cycling is basically flat, it is rather unforgiving as the tow path is often bumpy and there is no rest from pedalling because there are no hills to free-wheel down so we were glad to get back to Bradford and have another cuppa after we had packed the bikes back into the car.

Bradford on Avon

Bradford on Avon on the hill behind the canal

Our day wasn’t over though as on our way home, we made a diversion to see a white horse carved into the downs above Westbury.

white horse

It really was as brilliantly white as it looks in the picture.

We took a side road up to the top of the down above the horse and found ourselves walking along the ramparts of a huge iron age fort called Bratton Camp.

Bratton Camp

The scale of the mounds and ditches and its situation, perched on the edge of a steep escarpment made it just as amazing a piece of engineering  as the Caen Hill Locks.  Here is Mrs Tootlepedal with the white horse and ramparts behind her (and a 40 mile view beyond her).

Mrs  tootlepedal and the horse

I stole a picture from a signboard which shows the scale of the castle.

Bratton Camp

The mound in my photo above is the one in the very bottom right of the aerial photo.  The white horse dates from the 17th century and is refurbished with concrete paint these days.

After all this excitement, it was time to head for home and an evening meal of bacon and eggs.  A 24 mile pedal, two miracles of engineering and a pleasant drive had made for a good holiday day.  To add to our feeling of well being, it started to rain just after we were safely indoors.

The flying bird of the day was a magpie, making off as we arrived back at the cottage.

magpie

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Today’s picture shows Owen, Mrs Tootlepedal’s great nephew, really enjoying a trip to the barber.

Owen

Being on holiday and the weather being bright but cold, we thought that the day was made for having fun somewhere organised and with the possibility of getting out of the chilly wind from time to time.  Longleat seemed to meet our requirements as it promised fun for all the family and a reduced entry fee for old people.  We approached it with some trepidation because it was not cheap to get in and we worried in case it turned out to be money ill spent in spite of the promise of fun for all.

We need not have worried.  We had a great holiday day out.  For those of you who don’t know about it, Longleat is a vast Elizabethan mansion belonging to the family of the Marquess of Bath and the previous Marquess had the idea of introducing some lions into his extensive parkland to bump up visitor numbers to his stately pile.  It worked and there is now a full blown safari park and many other entertainments to divert the visitor.  We were certainly diverted.

The house is impressive.

Longleat

Longleat

It has some delightful gardens to walk through.

gardens at Longleat

A lot of attention has been paid to making conditions pleasant for the visitor and the painted decoration of the walls of the cafe  in the Orangery caught our eye.

Orangery

It was a good day to visit, as even on a cold Saturday in April, there were enough people about to make the place look busy but not enough to make it crowded and to force you to queue at any time.

In the grounds round the house, there are many small animal enclosures and we were constantly entertained by new surprises.  Here are a few of them.

red panda

A red panda heads for some fresh fruit.

A marmoset

A marmoset looks back at the visitors

bird

I didn’t always read the information so I can’t tell what this regal bird is.

meerkat

This one was simples. It’s a meerkat.

otters

A pair of otters dozing in the sun

prairie dog

A prairie dog

There was a butterfly house which I think I enjoyed most.  The residents were fantastic and beautiful.

butterflies

butterflies

As is often the case in butterfly houses, there was also a colony of leaf cutter ants at work.

leafcutter ants

As were in the mood for fun, we took a ride on both the narrow gauge railway….

railway

…and the boat trip on the lake.  This latter turned out to be an unexpected treat as we were accompanied all the way along the lake and back by several sea-lions (lake-lions?) who as a reward were fed fish by the passengers.

sea-lion

We also had a fine view of the park’s most fearsome residents grazing on the shores of the lake….

hippopotamus

Nobody, not even a lion, argues with a hippopotamus.

…and, for me at least, it’s most charming.

gorilla

This was a young gorilla braving the cold, having ventured out of his centrally heated house.

The most puzzling animal we saw, was an anteater.

anteater

At first sight, it looks like two separate animals and then we had a hard time distinguishing between its feet and its head.  We worked it out in the end.

One of the things that we liked was the fact that once you had paid for a day ticket, there were no other hidden expenses and there was was always a lot going on.  Our fears of not getting value for money were very wide of the mark.

After a light lunch, we embarked on the tour of the safari park.  You do this in your own car and at your own speed.  Although the lions are the headline attraction, I found others parts of the tour more interesting.

We left the car for a while and watched giraffes getting fed.

giraffes

They had a large enclosure. These are Rothschild’s giraffes

But you could get very close to them.

giraffe

We walked through the lemur enclosure and watched the youngsters playing around our feet.

lemurs

I had difficulty in getting a quick enough exposure to slow this fellow down.

tortoise

And we saw a small of flock of African pygmy goats.

goat

Then we got back in the car and drove through the park.  The open parkland was great; the car windows were open and the animals often came close or grazed by the roadside, indifferent to the visitors.  Everywhere you turned, there was another sight to see.

horned animals

Horned animals of many kinds

There were birds too but being behind netting, they were good to look at but hard to photograph.  The rhinos, on the other hand, stood nice and quietly.

rhinos

They are very impressive close up.

rhino

It was wonderful to drive along unfenced roads among such a miscellany of wildlife.

camel

An ancient people carrier with a more modern one on the background.

Fearing for our windscreen wipers, we avoided the monkey enclosure and headed on to the carnivore section.  This I didn’t enjoy so much as the animals were more clearly caged in and we were too, as we had to go through an elaborate system of electric gates and keep our car windows shut.  There wasn’t the same feeling of contact with the animals.  The tigers were undoubtedly impressive though.

tiger

This one was only twenty yards or so away from the car.

The lions were less exciting.

lion

I was pleased to get out of this section of the tour but also sad as it signalled the end of our visit.  We could have taken a tour round the great house but chose instead to walk to the top of Cley Hill nearby.

Last year we walked up this hill with our daughter Annie on a hot sunny day with the hill covered in wild flowers and butterflies.  It was earlier in the year this time, the cowslips were only just out, there were no butterflies and it started to rain as we got to the top.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed our walk up the chalky hill and the view from the top was still impressive as we looked down at the ploughed fields washing against the bottom of the hill like the sea against cliffs.

Cley Hill

Our fun was not quite completed yet as on our way home we stopped to visit Nunney Castle.

Nunney castle notice

We particularly like the opening times although we were sorry that it had been spoiled by the recent modernisation.  It still looked quite old to us.

Nunney castle

It is very picturesque and is completely surrounded by a moat.

I was much struck by a notice on a wall outside the castle indicating the charms of the neighbouring church.

Nunney Church

A civil war cannonball.  Hold me back!

We arrived home, tired but happy, having definitely had fun.  (We let the cannonball go.)

In the field behind the cottage, by coincidence, was another small flock of pygmy goats.

pygmy goats

After a reviving cup of tea, we got the bikes out and cycled a delightful seven mile circuit up and down hill to the local chip shop where we bought two fish suppers.  We sped back down the hill to the cottage and ate them with relish.

The flying bird of the day was a goose on the lake at Longleat.

goose

I’m sorry about the vast number of pictures but you should see the 2oo butterfly pictures that I discarded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s picture, taken by Dropscone in our absence,  shows the results of a sharp hailstorm in Langholm.  This would be more satisfactory to us 300  miles to the south if we hadn’t been peppered by hailstones ourselves today.  Still it wasn’t as bad as it obviously was in Langholm.

Summer in Langholm

We’ve had two busy days of driving as we stopped on our way down to Somerset so that we could go to see Cosi Fan Tutte at the wonderful opera house in Buxton.  We had hoped to make this trip even better by admiring the wonderful countryside of the Peak District as we drove through it, stopping off perhaps for a stroll in some scenic spot.  Sadly we got stuck in a traffic jam near Manchester which took up a lot of time and when we did get to the countryside, it was shut.  Cloud down to zero feet took away any chance of a view and the delay took away the chance of a stroll.

Still the Mozart opera made up for everything.  It was a performance by English Touring Opera and it was sung in English.  Some people don’t like to hear opera in English but when you are sitting for nearly three hours, it seems to me that understanding what is going on is definitely a good thing.  The singing was splendid and the acoustics and the singers’ diction combined to make every word intelligible.  To add to the pleasure, the orchestral playing was exceedingly crisp and the direction was clear and intelligent.  And of course the music is quite good too.

The opera house itself is worth a visit and you can see a photo gallery of it here.

We stayed overnight at Ashbourne at one of those rectangular brick built hotels that make up for their lack of charm by extremely reasonable prices.

Encouraged by some sunshine, we drove a bit out of our way to visit Matlock Baths, a picturesque village on the banks of the Derwent.

Matlock Baths

This seems to be one of those places which is only there to act as a magnet to tourists and it has gardens, walks, amusement arcades, cafes and, rather surprisingly, a gondola cable car rising to the top of the very steep bank above the village.

gondolas

This was continually going up and down while we were there but with few if any customers aboard.  The village was very quiet and we were able to enjoy a stroll along the riverside, past a deserted outdoor cafe underneath a spreading tree…

cafe

…past a jubilee bridge some 100 years older than Langholm’s jubilee bridge…

jubilee bridge matlock

….past a course laid out for canoe slalom…

canoe course

…past the elegant station…

station

…past the gondola station and up a pleasant path through some woods.

The path at Matlock Baths

There were many anemones (with an odd blue bell here and there) to admire beside the path.

anemones

We saw our first butterfly of the year, an interesting but unattractive fungus….

fungus

…a grey squirrel and a woodpecker.  We came down and drove to Matlock itself to have a cup of coffee and buy some provisions for our holiday cottage.  We then got back to more mundane activities and drove down main roads and motorways in alternating sunshine and rain showers until we got to Bath.  From there we wiggled across country until we arrived at our cottage in Coleford.

After a refreshing cup of tea, we got our bikes and stretched our legs over seven hilly miles in lovely sunshine and a chilly wind.  The roads were lined with anemones and primroses but the standout was this waterfall of aubretia near Mells.

aubretia

The lanes round our cottage are ideal for the elderly cyclist.

Mells

We stopped to get more supplies at the local Co-op in Coleford before plunging down the steep hill back to the cottage.

Lower Coleford

The village elders have majored on primroses.

Coleford primroses

The cottage is on the edge of a field and has a mill stream running past its windows.

Leat Cottage

It is not surrounded by birds but we did get a glimpse of what looked like a fieldfare.

fieldfare

We will sleep well tonight.

The fieldfare obliged by breaking into flight to give me a flying bird of the day.

fieldfare

Note: I am not able to access my wauchope e-mail address while I am away so people writing to me there, will not get a reply until we return in a week.

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Today’s picture shows one of the many daffodils which are supplying most of the colour in the garden at the moment.

daff

The early morning weather was not at all attractive to cyclists unless they were ones who were particularly fond of wind and rain.  As that number did not include me, I stayed at home and put my feet up until Dropscone (and scones) arrived for coffee.  He had preferred the gym to the elements.

While I was waiting for Dropscone to arrive, I spent some time watching a tremendous number of siskins coming to the feeder.  They are even outnumbering our chaffinches at the moment.

siskins

siskins

siskins and chaffinch

The odd chaffinch tried to get a look in.

Even the ground crew’s job had been taken over by siskins.

siskins

The rain let up enough to allow me to take a damp walk round the garden to look for new colour.  A dicentra and some aubretia obliged.

dicentra

aubretia

Things are definitely looking up.

Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a couple of jays on her travels up and down to collect manure and so we went up to Bessie Bell’s with camera in hand to see if we could get an action shot.  We saw a heron in one field…

heron

…and a lamb in another…

lamb

…but no jays.  We even cycled up the road again after lunch, by which time the weather had become warm and dry, but there was still no sign of them.  In general birds don’t seem to be alarmed by passing cars but a pedestrian or a cyclist soon causes them to make themselves scarce.

After we got back from our pedal, which was a gentle affair of six miles, our B&B visitors arrived.  They had come down to open a local art exhibition and by coincidence, they were the previous occupiers of our house.   It has been much changed during the forty years we have been living here.

At the same time Sandy arrived and after a quick look at some tadpoles in our pond…

tadpoles

Still in very early stages of development.

…we set off to see of we could take pictures of the nuthatches at their nest.  We parked at the Kilngreen and saw some somnolent ducks…

ducks

…and a mystery bird which flew off before we could get a good look at it…

mystery bird

Possibly a common sandpiper

…but no nuthatches.  This was because when we arrived at the nest tree, there were vans and men working so we made a detour past the rabbit warren…

rabbits

…admired some newly appeared leaves…

leaves

…wondered why the tree in the middle is covered entirely with moss while the ones on each side of it have much less….

mossy tree

…and arrived back at the nest site.  The workers had gone but so had the nuthatches and after waiting for a while we gave up and walked onto to another nest site.  No nuthatches there either so we walked back to the car by the new path.  At least there was a bee to be see on our way.

bee

And a heron, of course, when we got back to the Kilngreen.

heron

I was pretty tired when we got back and I was having a sit down when Mrs Tootlepedal remarked that two collared doves where billing and cooing on the lawn.  By the time I had stood up and picked up the camera, a passing hawk had put the wind up the doves who left at speed and happily unharmed.

doves

Our accompanist for the choir rang up to say that she was ill and couldn’t come to the evening’s practice and I felt very tired indeed.  However after a reviving plate of sausage stew, I packed my laptop and some speakers into the car and went round to the hall where a good number of singers had arrived.  The computer played very satisfactorily, the singers sang very well and I enjoyed myself a lot more than I expected to.  We got some useful practice in for the concert in June.  The musical director will be back next week and my career as a conductor will be over.

We are going to the Peak District tomorrow and as we are going to the opera in Buxton in the evening, there won’t be a chance for me to make my usual post and I will post again, all things being equal, on Friday evening when we will be in Somerset.  We had a  grand week there last year with lovely weather and we are hoping for a repeat this year.  Our neighbour Liz has the heavy task of looking after the birds in our absence.

Today’s flying bird is a siskin, taken during the morning rain.

flying siskin

 

 

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Today’s picture shows Alistair’s eagle in  a less threatening posture.  It does show how clever the jointing is on the model.

crouching eagle

The weather turned out to be very nice today in spite of a not very promising forecast and in the absence of Dropscone on golfing business, I got myself up and organised and pedalled round the morning run after breakfast in lonely splendour.  The wind was a bit stronger than yesterday and had moved very slightly so that it was more of a pest coming back.  However, all was forgiven and forgotten in a glorious rush down the last three and a half miles in just over eight minutes with the full strength of the wind behind me.  I reached my maximum speed for the day (30 mph) on a fairly flat piece of road here rather than down any of the earlier hills.

In the absence of scones, I had to make do with toast and marmite with my coffee.

When I went to fill the bird feeder, I found something unusual in the bottom of the seed box….

mouse

…the birds on the other hand, were exactly as usual.

redpoll, siskin, chaffinch

Although there was one atypical visitor.

coal tit and siskin

A siskin is joined by a coal tit.

Mrs Tootlepedal was at work so I managed to find useless things to do until she returned though I did manage to mow the middle lawn in between footling about.

Mrs Tootlepedal has made the decision to plant everything she can before we go away and cover it as well as she can in case of frosts.  After lunch, I helped out with planting the potatoes.  When we had finished, she gave me three to plant in a bag rather than in the veg bed.  I tried this last year and didn’t get good results so this will be the last time of trying unless the crop is good.  The purpose is to try and grow slug free potatoes which is hard outside in our damp climate.

I then put the belt bike in the car and took it down to Longtown to try to get one or two suspicious creaks and groans sorted before I take it away on Thursday.  As I backed out of the drive, I nearly ran over a passer by.  He turned out to be looking for a lift to Longtown.  You expect Google to know all about you but it is worrying when even your neighbours know where you are going before you do.

Having delivered the bike, I drove back to the Kilngreen and took the camera out of the car to look for dippers.  There were none.

There was a pair of goosanders but they paddled away up the Ewes water as soon as I appeared.

goosanders

I walked across the Castleholm to see if there was any sign of the nuthatches near the Jubilee Bridge.  I saw a blue tit singing away but within moments a nuthatch appeared and frightened it off.

blue tit and nuthatch

I think they both have eyes on the same hole in a tree for a nest.

I left them to it and walked up the Esk to find a spot to sit and watch the water flow by.  On my way, I passed the Duchess’ Bridge, catching a ray of sunshine ….

Duchess Bridge

…a rabbit lying low…

lying low

You can’t lie much lower than that.

…and a pheasant rearing city which has sprouted miraculously over the past week or so…

pheasant city

Pheasant shooting is big business.

This was the spot that I found to sit…

River esk

No leaves on the trees yet.

…and here is the water going by.

water

There were birds flitting across the river but they were too quick and too far away for me to catch.  This wild flower was stiller and nearer.

wildflower

I did notice two drakes swimming stealthily up the far side of the river.  To my surprise, when they reached a small promontory, instead of swimming round it, they left the water and walked overland before rejoining the water.

duck

All became clear a moment later when there was an almighty row as they attacked a duck lying in the undergrowth a few yards up the bank.

I made an excuse and left the scene and continued my walk.  My target this time was a second potential nuthatch nest.  When I reached the tree, a nuthatch on a branch caught my attention by singing loudly and urgently.

nuthatch

It was only when I turned to look at the nest site that I saw whom it was talking to.

nuthatch at nest

They soon joined forces.

nuthatches

nuthatches

I think that they are preparing the entrance to the nest.  They flew off and as I didn’t want to interrupt their work, I walked on back to the Kilngreen.  I met a rider leading a second horse, always an impressive sight to see for someone like myself who has a good deal of difficulty controlling one horse.

horses

 

Kilngreen

The bank of the Ewes Water is looking very colourful.

The goosanders (or a pair who looked very like them) had made their way to the meeting of the waters….

goosanders

…where they were joined by a gull rather mournfully looking for food in a puddle…

black headed gull

…and a heron running towards a man who regularly feeds the birds on the Kilngreen.

heron

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was still slaving in the vegetable garden.  This time she was sowing beans.

Mrs Tootlepedal

I felt quite tired just watching her.

In the evening, I went with Susan to play recorders in Carlisle and I had my second satisfying evening of music making in a row.  There were good biscuits too.

A second day running with a pedal and a tootle – throw in the nuthatches and it would be hard to have a better day.

The flying bird of the day is a two headed duck at the Kilngreen.

flying duck

 

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