Archive for Jun, 2014

Today’s guest picture was actually taken today by my daughter on her Backberry  in Devon where she is on holiday.  It shows Woody Bay.

Woody Bay

It was a lovely day here too and Dropscone and I made the most of it by cycling out to Gair and back for our morning run.  It was one of those days when a light breeze seemed to be more of a hindrance going out than it was a help coming back so we didn’t break any speed records but it was so warm and pleasant that we didn’t care.

I have done 460 miles on the bike this month, mostly in short journeys,  and this has kept me on my schedule for the year.

After this energetic start, the day went downhill as far as activity went.  For some reason, probably connected with the clipping of the yew tree yesterday, my hip was very sore today and after a walk round the garden when I got back from cycling, I spent the rest of the day doing very little except for trying to find a position that eased the pain.

Note: For those who wonder how clipping a yew tree, an activity which mostly uses the arms could possibly affect the hip, I would remind them that the…

Thigh bone connected to the hip bone

Hip bone connected to the back bone

Back bone connected to the shoulder bone

Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone

….or so they tell me.

It is actually quite painful to sit at the computer so I shall dispense with any amusing observations today, stick in my garden pictures and try to get an early night.

The light was wonderful in the morning and brought out the colours.

It was very blue in the garden today:

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder




The last of the Aquilegias

It was very pink in the garden today:

Queen of Denmark

I caught the Queen of Denmark on a good day

Rosa Mundi

Rosa Mundi in two stages of development

Rose Excelsa

The first Rose Excelsa, an old fashioned rambler

Martagon lily

The dancing feet of a Martagon lily

It was really white in the garden today:

Mrs Simpkins

Mrs Simpkins feathered pink

Jacobite rose

Jacobite rose




And a big bunch of Campanula, the whitest of them all.

I cleaned my bike chain and gears in the one moment of positive action of the day but reluctantly decided against any mowing although the sound of grass pleading to be cut was almost deafening at times.

We are having salads for lunch at present in this spell of good weather and today’s feast included the last of the tins of sardines which my daughter had sent to me from Cannes.  The ingenious French had trapped a small piece of carrot and a slice of lemon in the tin along with sardines but hadn’t managed to spoil the taste at all.

Mrs Tootlepedal is getting very excited by the potatoes which are looking very good…


These are the earlies.

…and is having to be restrained from digging one up, “Just to see”, although it would be much earlier than a normal year.

The mild winter may well mean that the potatoes will be heavily slug damaged but we are hoping for the best.

The rest of the day was spent watching a little tennis when I could bear the strain, doing a little business on the computer and looking occasionally out of the kitchen window in the hope of catching a flying bird.

I caught a starling family.


Any food?





My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and we enjoyed some good playing.

We could do with some rain, which is not something that we say often in Langholm, and the forecast promised us an 85% chance of rain this evening.  We got the other 15% and stayed dry.  Mrs Tootlepedal is having to do a lot of watering.

No flying bird or non flying flower today.  Goodnight.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my daughter Annie, who has been in Devon.  It just goes to show, she says, that they have gates down there too.

Devon gate

Since it was both  a pleasant day and a Sunday, I took the speedy bike out for a spin up the main road to the north of Langholm.  I found that I was feeling quite perky and would have gone further than sixteen miles before turning for home if I had had the forethought to bring some food with me. As it was I had just a banana for added energy so sixteen miles was far enough.

I had felt a bit of breeze in my face as I had pedalled along going out but it must have been stronger than it felt, because I positively whistled home with it behind me, covering the sixteen miles in 50 minutes which is a good deal faster than my normal speed.

If those living in the rest of Britain felt that there weren’t many motorbikes about today, it was because they were all going up the A7.  I must have met about 50 of them in my two hour ride.

I was working too hard on the way out and going too fast on the way home to stop to take any pictures so I walked round the garden when I got home to take a few there.


A delphinum with a white heart instead of the usual black.

I often concentrate on flower portraits and neglect the bigger picture.  I tried to make amends today…

daisies and campanulas

Daisies and campanulas

…but not for long.


I tried to get a good picture of the Queen of Denmark which I missed out from my catalogue of roses the other day but it is in an awkward place for photography and it is often covered with little black flies so I have twinned it here with the new Fuchsia which Mrs Tootlepedal bought yesterday to go in the chimney pot.

Queen of Denmark fuchsia

I then mowed the front lawn, had a shower and ate my lunch.

After lunch, I walked past the new artificial pitch at the school…

artificial pitch

It is very, very flat.

…and onto the Castleholm where there was a flapping race meeting going on.  I was just in time to watch the pony race which started the proceedings.

Pony race

The runners were given a start according to age.

I met up with Sandy and we strolled up to the top corner to wait for the next race.  There were things to distract us as we waited…

grass and robin

…and they helped to pass the time before the start.

Start 6f

They’re off.

The going was very firm and the horses were going at a great rate when they came round the top corner in this 6 furlong sprint.

Flapping race

Flapping race

A study in concentration.

There is at least half an hour between races so Sandy and I strolled across the infield while we waited for the next race.  As we went along, numerous swallows whizzed past us at knee height.


Although the runners in this meeting are not the cream of the equine crop, they are still very fine looking animals.

Flapping race

Sandy stopped to talk to another local photographer and I walked down to the bottom corner where I would be able to see the runners come round twice in the next race which was a stayers event.

While I waited, I took a shot of the castle in summer, discreetly veiled by the surrounding trees.

Langholm Castle

A thunder of hooves drew my attention back to the racing.

Flapping race

The riders were working hard to keep the horses on line on the fast going.

They go at a good speed and it wasn’t long before they reappeared.

Flapping race

One rider was struggling to keep up and was unshipped as he came round the bend and fell heavily to the ground.  There were only two people nearby and we approached the fallen jockey nervously.  I resisted the temptation to take a shot of him lying there winded and asked him how he felt.  After some light groaning, he was able to get to his knees, rather dazed but with no broken bones as far as we could see.

I will never be a press photographer as I stopped clicking away as soon as I saw that he was falling off, although he was in my viewfinder at the time.  It seemed too rude to record his coming to grief.

I walked a few yards down the track and made sure that the jockeys coming round the corner after finishing the race didn’t run him over.  They were generally pretty unsympathetic and he actually got a cursing for being incompetent from one of the older hands as they rode past him rather than any kind words.

We were just wondering what to do about him, as he was looking a bit concussed, when a race official turned up in a car and drove him back to the start.

Sandy and I felt that we had had enough fun by this time and walked home to have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  We agreed to meet again on the moor at six o’clock in the hope that an interesting bird might appear.

Sandy went off home meanwhile and Mrs Tootlepedal and I started to clip the yew tree which has the perennial nasturtium growing on it.  This is a delicate operation as the nasturtium has to be untangled and held carefully while the yew is clipped round about it. They yew generally looks like this, rather in the shape of a chessman….

..but it has got bigger and bigger over the years (the picture above was taken two years ago) and Mrs Tootlepedal took the view that the ball on the top was now so big as to be beyond a sensible size for an old man to get up a ladder and clip.   This was the result today.

topless yew

We are hoping that the little stump that is left will start sprouting soon and a new smaller ball can be created.  If it doesn’t, it will be sawn off and the top will be shaped as a dome.

When we had finished, it was time to drive Granny up to the moor and by a stroke of good luck, exactly as we arrived so did a short eared owl which flew along the hillside not far from the layby where a group of very happy bird watchers were in position.

short eared owl

It is feeding young and we were able to watch it hunting along the hillside.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Granny also saw some merlins but I was looking in the wrong direction at the time.

We drove along a little way to another layby in the hope of seeing some harriers but we only got one or two fleeting glimpses so we decided that it was time for tea and headed home.  Sandy went off to where he had been told that he would find another harrier nest.  I shall be interested to hear whether he found it.

Altogether, between the bicycling, the gardening, the racing and the bird watching, it was a full day.  The flying bird of a day full of flying birds is the short eared owl looking for voles.








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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my Newcastle correspondent and she tells me that it shows her daughter both celebrating ‘wrong trousers’ day and supporting the Dutch football team in the World Cup at the same time .  She is supporting the Dutch team because she is half Dutch and if you ask which half, it is the top half of course.


It was another dry day today but with a little more breeze than lately and quite cool for the time of the year with the thermometer showing 14C when I set out on my bike.

I surprised myself by feeling cheerfully fit unlike the last few days and I was just getting pepped up for a brisk run while passing the three mile marker when I suddenly remembered, in the nick of time, that I was supposed to be at the Town Hall taking down the photos from our photo exhibition.

A quick turn round and I was home and changed in time to be at the take down.  Phew.

Sandy was there too and we had a cup off coffee afterwards and arranged to meet after lunch to go on a butterfly hunt at Longtown.

I got changed again and went back out on the bike to add another thirteen miles to my original six. I was still feeling well so I didn’t even think of wild flowers today and concentrated on getting my average up to to over fifteen miles an hour for the combined nineteen miles.  It was a mystery to me as to why I was feeling so much better today but it was very welcome.

I had a quick look for new flowers in the garden when I got back.  There were some conventional flowers….

nasturtium and marigold

The first appearance of nasturtium and marigold

…and one a little bit different.  It is the woolliest plant that I know of.

Stachys byzantina

Stachys byzantina or Lamb’s ear

As well as new plants, I took a picture of the very last of the peonies.  This one is going out in style.


Mrs Tootlepedal and I made some soup for lunch and then I went off with Sandy to Longtown.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Granny also went to Longtown but  a little bit later, as they were visiting a garden centre to buy some plants for the chimney pot outside the kitchen window.

When we got to Longtown, Sandy and I went down to the river…

Longtown Bridge

…which was very low after the recent dry spell.   The fishermen won’t be happy as they need a good flow of water but a goosander on an exposed rock seemed cheerful enough…


…and I enjoyed her splashy take off a moment or two later.


The path along the river was through a wild flower meadow….

Longtown meadow

…and there were insects of many kinds on every side…

insects on knapweed

…and plenty of butterflies.  The trouble with the butterflies was that they showed a marked reluctance to stop flying for even an instant when we were looking at them.  There were any amount around and they rose from the sides of the path as we approached and didn’t settle again until we had gone well past.

Still, it was a treat just to walk along the path….

Longtown path

…and look at the flowers beside it.

wild flowers

Possibly a Heracleum of some sort on the left and definitely a lovely wild campanula on the right

After a while, the path emerged into the open and the ponds come into view.

Longtown ponds

The butterflies were just as busy here but the warm sunshine seemed to make them a little more restful.

It wasn’t warm enough to make them sit on a flower and spread their wings but at least they did sit for a moment.

ringlet butterfly

We think that this is a ringlet butterfly

ringlet butterfly

A butterfly with a really complicated head

clouded yellow

This one may be a clouded yellow.  It has the face of a disgruntled troll….

clouded yellow

…but a good taste in flowers

It was sitting on an orchid as Sandy noticed and when we looked round, we could see that there were many more around it.

orchids at Longtown

There was quite a large number of them growing on a bank and it is hard to see why they should just grow there and nowhere else round about.  They were the only ones we saw on our walk.  They were looking very fine in the sunshine.

orchids at Longtown

The views were worth looking at as well as the butterflies.

Longtown pond

One of the ponds

River Esk

A bend in the River Esk

And there was the occasional bird too.


After the cool morning, the afternoon proved to be very warm and we were getting well cooked as we went along.  We were quite pleased when the sun went in as we rounded the ponds and turned to walk home.

Sandy has posted some of the pictures that he took today on his blog and if you are interested, you can find them here.

Both Sandy and I were quite tired after a couple of hours in the sun and we were pleased to get back to Langholm.

When Sandy dropped me off, I failed to take an opportuntiy to mow a lawn and went inside to update the Moorland Project website for Dr Barlow instead.  If any reader has been intrigued by pictures of owls and hen harriers on my recent blogs, I can recommend a visit to her regular blog for more expert information and photos.

Mrs Tootlepedal turned out to have bought one of my favourite flowers to put in the chimney pot outside the kitchen window and it will give me something to look at while I am waiting for the birds to return to the seed feeder.  The uptake so far has been slow but I did manage to catch a flying blue tit in the evening.

flying blue tit




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Today’s guest picture was sent by my friend Mike Tinker who encountered a bird cherry tree on a walk near Brampton yesterday.  The tree had been completely defoliated and had been covered up in a weblike material by the bird cherry ermine moth.  He tells me that the tree looked as though it had been wrapped in cling film.  Creepy.

Bird cherry ermine

Our spell of dry and fairly warm weather continued today and I paid some attention to my general tiredness and instead of getting even more tired by bicyling,  I spent a very leisurely day relaxing, helping a little in the garden now and again and chatting to Granny.

I wasn’t entirely idle as I found the energy to mow and edge a lawn and clip four of the box balls round the front lawn.  All the box balls are now clipped and only the short hedges remain.  Mrs Tootlepedal did one of them today.  She would like to take at least one of the little hedges out to reduce the clipping load but they do give very good definition to the garden so they will probably survive.

I thought that I had taken pictures of all the roses that were out today.


[Top left to bottom right: Crown Princess Margaretha, Goldfinch, Rosa Mundi, Jacobite Rose, Special Grandma, Gallica Complicata, Moss rose William Lobb, Lilian Austin, The Wren]

…but I realised too late that I had missed out the Queen of Denmark.

Our old lawn water sprinkler has broken down so we have got a new swirly watering device to attach to the hose and I set it up to water one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s flower beds.  I like the pattern’s that it makes.

swirly water sprinkler

I walked round to check on the tadpoles in the dam behind the house.  They were still there.


Alison Tinker suggested that these may be toads and not frogs in the making as the toads spawn later then frogs and often in running water too.  I shall keep an eye on them as they develop if I can.

The two Fuchsias in the garden are not looking very good in spite of much cossetting but the old fashioned Fuchsia on the back wall is thriving on benign neglect.


Two clumps of Ligularia are just beginning to come into flower.


I enjoyed a defiant rose adding a touch of pink to a mass of blue and white in the border beside the front lawn.

campanulas and delphiniums

Campanulas and Delphiniums

We had a tasty hard boiled egg salad for lunch with home grown lettuce, locally produced tomatoes and cheese from not far away so we felt we had done our best for the local economy as well as eating good food.

Some persistent squealing outside the kitchen window caught my attention.  A young starling was wanting his lunch too….and this very moment now please.


The parent flew up to the feeder and the baby practised looking pathetically hungry.

young starling

It worked.

young starling

Soon a sibling arrived.

young starlings

This proved too much for the parent who flew off followed by two wailing youngsters.

After lunch, I went off to the Tourist Information Point at the Kilngreen for two hours where I saw not a single tourist and gave out not a jot of information.  As I had newspapers to read, a crossword to do and a bag a very unlocal cherries to eat, the time passed pleasantly enough.

As a reward, I got myself a an ice cream from the van on the Kilngreen when I shut up shop and ate it while looking at birds on the river bank.

I was watching a wagtail….


…when a disturbance behind me made me look round.

The resident heron had arrived and was being harassed by furious gulls.

gulls and heron

The heron looked a little nervous but stood its ground, occasionally fluffing itself up .

fluffy heron

The gulls kept circling round and shouting at it which gave me the opportunity to take a picture or two…

black headed gulls

…before I cycled home.

Here I indulged in some top quality idling, helped by having Wimbledon tennis on the telly but I did get up from time to time to check on the seed feeder to see of any finches had arrived.  There was a trickle.

greenfinch and chaffinch

A greenfinch and a chaffinch

I saw a flock of goldfinches not far away a few days ago so I am hoping that they will make an appearance soon.

We had a very brief flying visit from a coal tit too.

coal tit

Mrs Tootlepedal was working away in the garden all this time so I went out to check on her activities and couldn’t resist yet another shot of the Eryngiums which are probably now at their peak of blueness.


In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I caused several notable composers to spin rapidly in their graves as we did a bit of violence to their music but,  as usual,  we enjoyed ourselves as we did it.

The flying bird of the day is one of those complaining gulls.  This is a young black headed gull.

black headed gull




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No guest picture again today but a big welcome to the first siskin in the garden for several weeks instead.


It was mild yet again with gentle winds today, perfect for cycling and mowing the lawn and so I went cycling and mowed the lawn.  Everything in the garden was literally lovely and the only fly in the ointment was uncooperative joints and a certain tiredness that meant that a short cycle ride and mowing a couple of lawns took all the energy that I had for the day.

At least the sedate nature of my pedalling allowed me once again to get a good view of passing plants.  There was plenty of colour among the grasses to catch my eye.

wild flower

wild flower

wild flower


wild flower

There were curious green things too.

wild flower

And things that defied description.

wild flower

Even the grasses and reeds are interesting.


After a late start, I managed my usual 22 mile morning ride but I was so slow and I stopped so often for pictures that it was afternoon by the time that I got back.

Mrs Tootlepedal was in a very busy mood and was out with the hedge trimmer today, giving the chicken a haircut.


She started on the hedge behind as soon as she had finished.

I did some sporadic dead heading and admired the planting out of annuals which Mrs Tootlepedal had done while I was cycling.   There should be some treats to come.  Meanwhile, there is still a lot to look at.

day lily

There was a burst of day lilies today.


Hostas are coming freely into flower.

As well as new flowers, some old favourites are soldiering along very well.


This delicately coloured lupin has been out for weeks

candelabra primula

The candelabra primulas have been long lasting too


The Astrantias now come in three shades


And Irises come in four.

I went out in the evening with Sandy to the Archive centre where the Wi-fi connection worked well and we put a week and a half of the newspaper index into the database.  Mrs Tootlepedal was out carousing at an ex-colleague’s farewell do so I didn’t work for too long as I didn’t want to leave Granny without any company for longer than necessary.  Sandy has been back to work this week for the first time since contracting pneumonia and we had a little competition to see who was the most tired.  He just won.

This didn’t stop us planning one or two outings for the weeks ahead as I am keen to try to improve my landscape photography.  This may mean getting up early in the morning so there is a distinct possibility that it may never happen.  We shall see.

I put the seed feeder out during the day and I am waiting to see if it will attract more than the single siskin who came today.  I will be keeping a close eye for diseased birds and if I see them, the feeder will go back inside.

In the meantime, the non flying flower of the day is a new and gaudy rose.  I should know its name but I have forgotten it.

gaudy rose





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No guest picture today as a portrait of a mother and daughter takes pride of place.

Granny and Mrs Tootlepedal

Mrs Tootlepedal and Granny in the garden.

After a late breakfast, I sneaked out for a pedal before Granny got up.  I was feeling rather tired and was pleased not to be trying to keep up with Dropscone but I hadn’t gone far before I met him on his way home after a spin round the traditional morning run.

We stopped for a few words and he revealed that he too was feeling the strain a bit after driving over two hundred miles yesterday to play a game of golf and as a result, he was a minute or two slower than his usual pace.

I was a lot slower than my usual pace, partly because I was not at my peak and partly because I stopped from time to time to take pictures of some of the wild flowers that brightened up my journey.  Although the grasses are the chief occupiers of the verges, there are splashes of colour still to be found.


Just one of a little crop of orchids beside the road.

Wild Iris


The hedge roses are the best that I have ever seen them this year.



unkown wildflower

unkown wildflower


Potential bramble jelly



unknown wildflower

There was only one spot where there were more flowers than grasses.


I could go out again and take another ten different varieties so although my ride was lacking in speed, it certainly wasn’t lacking interest.

The rest of the day was spent either mowing lawns or working on the quiz for the choir social in the evening.  I mowed two and a half lawns and managed another forty questions for the quiz so that I ended up with seventy overall, which is quite enough for a social quiz (as opposed to a quiz night where you need a hundred teasers).

I sneaked a look at some birds whenever I passed the kitchen window.


Young sparrows getting excited by the fat balls

sparrow and jackdaw

A sparrow and a jackdaw practise staring.

I also walked round the garden while Mrs Tootlepedal showed granny round.  The flowers are enjoying the weather as much as we are.

white flowers

Campanula and roses in profusion.


Clematis flourishing


The first lily of the year

martagon lily

A Martagon lily with more flowers than it can easily fit in.

I was going to watch a bit of Andy Murray’s tennis match at Wimbledon but for once, he didn’t keep us on tenterhooks and the match finished almost before I had sat down.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal stayed in to keep Granny company and I went off to the Cricket Club for the Langholm Sings end of season social.  This turned out to be a very cheery affair with excellent food and good conversation.  The quiz was well received and with the scores varying from  50% to 80% correct, it seemed to have been of about the right difficulty for a social quiz.  This is not always easy to get right.

I stayed for longer than I expected and this has lead to another late night.  I will have to get myself better organised and get most of the blog written before I go out in the evenings.

I did get a flying bird of a sort again today.


I am going to put the seed feeder back up tomorrow and see if the finches come back and if they are looking healthy.  If they do and they are, I will keep it up.







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Today’s guest picture, from the camera of my brother, shows my sister-in-law Catherine enjoying a well earned rest on a walk near Leicester.


It was another very reasonable day today, suitable for cycling and lawn mowing but natural sloth and the demands of other business meant that I neither cycled nor mowed.  Getting up late and having some tasks which needed to be done in the town seemed to effortlessly fill up the morning, although I did find a moment to look out of the kitchen window to watch a family of starlings arrive at the fat bell feeder.


Junior arrived last and set up camp on the top of the feeder and indulged in some heavyweight whining until it was fed.


It is always a surprise to see birds feeding young which are the same size as the adults.

The many jackdaw visitors have proved so adept at taking my peanut feeder off the pole and smashing it on the ground to shake the peanuts out that they have bent it beyond repair and I had to get a new peanut feeder when I was doing my business in the town.  I hope that it will be more jackdaw resistant.

Most of the rest of day was spent driving to Newcastle airport to meet Granny off the ten to three plane from London and then finding that she hadn’t even taken off by the time that she was supposed to have arrived and  subsequently waiting to greet her when she landed at half past five.

This gave us more than enough time to visit a nearby garden centre and buy some interesting cheese (as one does at a garden centre) and then drive around until we found a food shop to buy something for our evening meal.

The airport doesn’t have an area where the public can watch planes arriving and leaving so the only picture I took was of something that hitherto I had only read about….

electric car

…a car fuelling up with electricity.

Granny, who is youthful 97, was exceedingly cheerful for someone who was two and a half hours late on a one hour flight and we drove home in good humour and at a very respectable rate of knots as the traffic was very light.

There was still enough light for me to whip round the garden when we got back.  The garden is looking quite patriotic with plenty of blue and white at the moment.


The day of the delphiniums has well and truly come.

Dutch Iris

The Dutch Iris adds more blue to the mix


This Philadelphus is giving double value

white roses

As is a pair of white roses, cheek by jowl.

Other roses are adding a contrast.

Special Grandma and The Wren

Special Grandma and The Wren

We noticed quite a lot of Special Grandma roses for sale at the garden centre near the airport and were not surprised to see that there is a variety called Special Mum too.  These marketing men know their business.  I was slightly saddened to note that there did not seem to be a variety even for an ordinary dad, let along a special one.  Such is life.

I was surprised to see a frog still out on the lily pads this late in the evening.


We got Granny settled in and enjoyed an excellent evening meal of the food we had bought while we were waiting for her so it hadn’t been time wasted entirely.

The (almost) flying bird of the day is a harassed parent feeding the demanding young  starling.





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