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Archive for April, 2015

Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s visit to Rye.  It speaks for itself.  Simple.

Rye April 2015 005I had to speak to myself today because Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to commune with TWGSP.  My conversation with myself touched on cycling but when Dropscone rang up to say that the morning run had taken him ten minutes longer than usual because of the fierce winds, that conversation came to a halt.

I did a crossword, hung out some washing, emptied a bin, put a week of the newspaper database into the computer and thought about stuff in an arbitrary way and in this fashion, managed to pass the morning quite pleasantly.

A persistent pigeon spent a lot of time outside the window….

pigeon…and even made a bold attempt to get the coveted flying bird of the day title.

pigeon

But it was more of a jump than a flight.

At one time, I was watching the bees on the plum tree through the kitchen window and I wondered if the other fruit was being attend to as well.  I went to investigate.

blackcurrant and gooseberry

The blackcurrant and gooseberry are being looked after.

apple

The apples are not quite ready yet.

I made myself a pot of carrot soup for my lunch and then put a second week of the newspaper into the Langholm Archive database.  The clouds were scurrying over the sky, leaving some sunny spells and in one of these, I went for a walk.

I had hoped that I would find a woodland path surrounded  by fresh green leaves.  I found some wild flowers….

bluebell, nettle and oxalis

Bluebell, nettle and oxalis

…and I found the path…

Round House path…but sadly the birch trees have not some into leaf yet.  The view backwards was a consolation….

Langholm…and the path itself is delightful….

round house path…but I had to make do with promises rather than the real thing.

promises of springpromises of springpromises of springIt was a good walk but not the green delight that I had hoped for.

I stopped near Skippers Bridge but a brief rain shower ruined the light and I enjoyed the river worn stones instead of looking at the bigger picture.

EskThe shower soon passed and I walked along the Murtholm to get home.  There are lambs in every field round the town at the moment.

lambLuckily the grey clouds went skimming past me and the rest of the way home was nicely sunlit.

MurtholmThe wild garlic will soon be making itself obvious.

garlicThe three mile walk gave me an appetite for tea and toast and I was just boiling the kettle when I saw a welcome blue tit on the feeder.

blue titMrs Tootlepedal arrived back safely from communing with Matilda and as she had combined her grandmotherly activities with a stroll round John Lewis with an eye on some useful remnants, she felt that the day had been well spent.

The remnants will become cushion covers in the course of time.

After tea, I went off to the Archive Centre where I met Sandy and he helped me put two more weeks of the index into the database so it had been a very productive day of archive work even if I hadn’t done much else.

By the time that I got home, one of the remnants had already been transmogrified.

remnantMrs Tootlepedal wields a nifty needle.

I am hoping for a less windy day tomorrow as I need to get out on the bike and try to see how fit I am.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch for once.  I have had complaints of too many flying birds with their wings tucked up lately so I have gone for the fully unfurled look today.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the Mermaid in Rye.  The picture was taken by my sister on a recent visit to this ancient town on the south coast of England.  It must be one of the prettiest inns in the country.

The Mermaid, RyeWe had another chilly and windy day with alternating sunshine and showers.  I found a sunny spell after breakfast and went out for  a dull  three lap, 20 mile ride up and down the Wauchope road, with the intention of running for home if the rain started and avoiding the worst of the wind at the same time.

I was partially successful and only got rained on for a short time on the third leg of the trip.  As I could see blue sky following on behind the rain, I persevered and was soon through the shower.  It was lucky that it was a short shower as the temperature dropped and the wind gusted heavily as it passed over. As it was, the wind was strong enough to add five minutes to my time over the same course yesterday.

I had enough energy when I got back to drink the cup of coffee that Mrs Tootlepedal had made with expert timing against my return and then take a walk round the garden in the sunshine.

In spite of the rain, hail, snow and wind, there is still quite a bit of colour to be seen.

primula and euphorbia

An obstinate primula growing in the middle of a path and a very decorative euphorbia

tulips

Two topping tulips

daffodil and spirea

A durable daffodil and a spectacular spirea.

On the down side, the grass on the lawns is going to pot and I doubt that my back would stand up to the work necessary to get them back in order.  I shall have to give up the dream of a perfect sward.  Perhaps a wild flower meadow is beckoning?

The rest of the morning was spent having a relaxing bath in an effort to get some of the stiffness out of my legs and shoulders.  It didn’t have much effect but I enjoyed the soak.

I noticed an infrequent visitor on the feeder when I came down.

starlings

A starling, probably nesting nearby.

I tried and failed to get a flying pigeon picture.

flying pigeon I was intending to make some carrot soup for lunch but I had spent so long lounging in the tub that we went off to a garden centre to try their home made soup instead.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought some herbs and some beetroot seedlings while we were there and we investigated their logs for our new stove.

It was raining heavily when we got home so we spent useful time getting some of the things that were moved out of the two rooms for the building works back in to them again.  Some things are being placed elsewhere in the house and quite a lot is going into the bin in the effort to have a tidy as well as a dry room downstairs.

When the rain stopped, I nipped up to the Moorland bird feeders to see what I could see.

Moorland feedersThere was just a hint of sunshine on the tree tops to set off the heavy black cloud of the departing shower.

Action was slow to get going but I am more patient than I used to be and the hide is very snug on a cold and windy day so I waited and was rewarded by a visit from a greater spotted woodpecker which came very close to the hide.

woodpecker

It had a good look round…

woodpecker

…before heading for the peanuts.

I thought that it deserved a head and shoulders portrait.

woodpeckerIt was followed by some great tits…

great tits

This one is a local, judging by the ring.

…and several chaffinches.   They arrived with another rain shower.

chaffinchI had put a little seed on a tree stump and the chaffinches were happy to pose in return for a seed or two.

_DSC9382-1Unlike the woodpecker, which had come close and stayed there, I had a fleeting visit from a jay.  It swooped up to the hide and then wheeled round and headed for a distant feeder.

jayThe jay left and the sun came out which let me leave the hide in comfort, pausing for one last glance at another chaffinch.

chaffinchIt had been a most enjoyable hour.

When I got back, I helped Mrs Tootlepedal put lampshades on the wall lights in the front room and looked through the thirty woodpecker pictures that I had taken (and the thirty chaffinch pictures).

In the evening, we both went off to sing with our local choir, Langholm Sings.  We have two ladies who are sharing the job of musical direction for the choir and they are settling into to the job very well so we had a good two hours with plenty of work and some useful progress.   I have the good fortune to sit beside a young music student with a fine voice.  He keeps me right and as a bonus,  covers up any little mistakes of mine very well.

The flying bird of the day is a garden chaffinch taken in one of the gloomy moments of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  She saw this old wireless transmitting station and was amazed to find that it is on sale as a dwelling.

wt stationWe had a day of variable weather, with a selection of wind, rain, hail, thunder and occasional sunshine.  It was very cold too too and the combination of the wind, rain and chill kept me off my bicycle.  To tell the truth, I am not feeling very perky at the moment and it will take quite an effort of will to get me back onto the bicycle unless the weather is a bit more friendly.

Meantime I was regaled with scones by Dropscone who came round for coffee and kept busy during the rest of the day by moving things back into the newly refurbished front room.  As it has got to be kept tidy now it doesn’t leak any more, this has involved throwing away a lot of things which tended to lie about in heaps in the old room.

Because I have collected a large number of variously shaped leads over the years, it is sometimes very difficult to remember which leads go with which devices and I am sure that I have kept leads for ages which belong to devices which have long since gone to the scrapheap.   Today I have probably thrown away leads which will turn out to belong to things that I still use.  Time will tell.

I did have time to look out of the kitchen window too.  After yesterday’s feast of bird life at Sue’s, it was rather quiet in out garden with mainly familiar faces.

chaffinch.Two freezing mornings have set back the plants in the garden, finishing some off completely but the plum tree seems to be soldiering on…

plum tree…and I was pleased to see some bees hard at work when the day warmed up a bit.

bee in plum treeAs you can see, the frost has turned some of the petals brown but there was enough left to attract a good number of bees.

There was a moment of joy after lunch when the electrician appeared and put the lights up on the walls in the front room.  This is the final visit of the men responsible for the whole undertaking and the room is now in working order…though the lighting is a bit stark as Mrs Tootlepedal has yet to acquire new lampshades.

new roomThere is still work to be done such as rehanging pictures and buying a rug to cover the bare patch in the carpet which my computer chair has worn but out joy at the completion of the undertaking after pretty well exactly three months is unconfined.

I am sitting at the computer table as I write this and getting used to the eerie silence of a room without water dripping into a bucket.

While the electrician was working during the afternoon, there was a heavy shower with thunder but when it passed, a sunny interval appeared and I nipped out for an amble round Gaskell’s Walk before the next shower. It was hard to take in the bright blue sky after such gloomy day but it was very welcome all the same.

I had a quick check on one of the slow worm hides at Pool Corner to see if there were any signs of life after the cold mornings.

slow wormThere was just this one.

There were colourful sights  nearby.

Pool cornerI didn’t linger on the way for fear of another thunder storm but I did stop to show the scrubby saplings that are growing beside the path

Gaskell's WalkThe path used to run through a gloomy coniferous plantation before it was felled but it will soon be back in the shade again at the rate these things are growing.

The saplings were not the only green things beside the path.  After the rain, the moss was very vivid too.

mossWhen I got to the Stubholm, a large number of rabbits scurried across the path from the field into the woods as I came along.  I will have to bring my zoom lens next time I come and try to capture a few.  They were too quick for Pocketcam which had to settle for some stationary lichen on the park wall instead.

lichenIt was not hard to find things to look at on the wall.

Park wallAlthough the magnolia has been battered to death by the weather, most of the tulips in the garden are made of stronger stuff.

tulipsThe feeder became quite busy as the afternoon wore on and I was pleased to see two birds here which I hadn’t seen at Sue’s, a siskin and a greenfinch.

siskin and greenfinchThe chaffinches were jostling for attention as they vied to become flying bird of the day.

chaffinchesAfter tea, Susan appeared and drove me to Carlisle where we played recorders.  There were only three of of us this week which gave us the chance to enjoy some of our less frequently played pieces and we got out a very varied selection of music from folk dances from Playford to a oogie woogie arrangement.

The forecast for the next few days is so miserable that I might have to put the slow bike back on the trainer in the garage but at least it should give us time to put the finishing touches to the front room so it is an ill wind etc etc.

The flying bird of the day is one of those keen chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my recorder playing friend Susan who saw this fine skyscape on a recent cycle outing.

skyscapeWe had a sharp frost during the night but the ground was remarkably ice free in the morning and while there was still frozen water in a bucket outside the back door at 11 o’clock, I was able to walk up to the town to do some business after breakfast without having to watch my step.  I was then able to walk back up to the town a short while later to do the other business which I had forgotten on my first trip.  Fortunately, it was a sunny day so it was no great hardship.

When Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her church choir practice, we had time for a cup of coffee before setting off to visit another member of our recorder group, though presently retired from tootling, Sue.  She lives deep in the Cumbrian countryside beyond Brampton and we arrived just in time for a tour of her garden and lunch.

She has a large garden and she and Mrs Tootlepedal spent some time discussing gardening and composting.  The lunch was excellent and it was enhanced by some of Sue’s home made sour dough bread.  Even better than the food though,  was the view from the window as we ate.  Sue likes birds and has several feeders outside  her window which provided us with a steady diet of birds to watch.

The star of the show for me was a nuthatch, one of my favourite birds.

nuthatchThere were small birds of every description, goldfinches and robins…

goldfinch and robin…great tits and house sparrows…

great tit sparrow….coal tits and blue tits…

coal tit blue tit…and even a greater spotted woodpecker but it lurked behind a branch and flew off without posing for me.  Sue tells me that her dunnocks or hedge sparrows have learned to fly up to her feeders.  The ones in our garden won’t do that so it was a pleasure to see one perched on a branch ready to go for some seed.

dunnockThere are obviously advantages to living in the country.

We had intended to go bicycling with Sue but a forecast of rain in the afternoon combined with a strong and very chilly breeze persuaded us to leave our bikes at home.  However, it was quite dry after lunch so we set off for a short circular walk on very quiet roads instead.

Sue lives on the very last gasp of the Pennines as they fall away into the Solway plain and a short but steep climb out the village of Talkin soon gave us some splendid views across the Eden valley towards the Lake District,

Eden valleyA short while later, we had a panoramic view across the whole Solway plain and Sue and Mrs Tootlepedal who had binoculars with the them, could see the monument of Whita Hill above Langholm, twenty five miles away to the north.

I pointed my zoom lens at the lake District hills.

lake districtIt was a most rewarding short walk.

As well as the long views, we could look down on Talkin Tarn…..

Talkin Tarn…admire the brilliant gorse in the sunshine against a backdrop of very threatening grey clouds…..

gorse…enjoy a stand of Scots pines….

Scots pines…and peer at a host of wild flowers on the hedgerows.  The strong breeze made it hard to get good pictures so these were the best that I could do.

wild flowerswild flowerswild flowersThat last one on the right is improbably called a Moschatel or the Town Hall Clock (because it has one flower facing upwards and another four facing in four separate directions like a town hall clock in a tower).

I found some blackthorn and local lichens to enjoy too.

blackthorn and lichenSue loves this short walk and was delighted to find that we thought that it was wonderful too.  What made it even better on this occasion was the many heavy showers which we could see on all sides and which were raining on other people and not us.

We were serenaded by curlews and oyster catchers as we walked and I had hopes of catching a flying bird of the day as a curlew flew close overhead but I was too slow and it was gone before I could catch it.

Sue's walkSue and Mrs Tootlepedal looking at some very dark clouds in front of them.

I should mention that we saw a little lamb….

lamb….aaah.

When we got back to the house, it was time for us to go home and we managed to fit in some useful shopping on our way.  We really enjoyed our visit and we are determined to go back when the weather is good and let Sue show us some good cycling routes.

The gloomy forecast, which we had avoided on a walk, arrived with a vengeance when we got home…

snow…and we had another snap snow storm with flakes the size of tennis balls.  The flowers won’t know what to do, 17°C and sunny one week and 2°C and snowing the next.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had a very enjoyable time paying duets.  Now that his exam has been successfully dealt with, I am intending to find as much music as possible that he can play for pure pleasure.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and we hit on some relaxed tempos for our playing which allowed us to enjoy a stress free session and play many of the right notes at the right time.

Although I saw a lot of birds during the day, I was unable to catch a flying bird of the day so a kind nuthatch has agreed to act as perching bird of the day instead.

nuthatch

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Today’s guest picture shows some friends which my Newcastle correspondent Fiona met in Malta.

malta turtlesAfter a chilly night, there was just enough rise in the temperature to get me out on the bike while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir.  There was a chilly wind and I was back into my multi-layered winter gear again.  I wasn’t in the mood to climb any hills today so I settled for three laps of the seven mile trip to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.  I met Dropscone, who had evidently got up earlier than me, just finishing his 21 mile morning tum as I was going out for mine.

It took me the first seven miles to get going properly but after that, I managed the second and third laps at a reasonable speed and got home at much the same time as Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church. I beat her by a few minutes though and had time to watch a good number of bees working hard to make plums for me.

bees and plum blossombees and plum blossombees and plum blossomThis is only a small selection of the crowd that were at work.

After a cup of coffee, we set about the chief business of the day which was relaying the carpet in the front room.  This turned out to be easier than I expected (possibly because Mrs Tootlepedal did all the skilled work).

carpet and cupboard

The room is beginning to look like a room and not a building site.

After the carpet came the two most important bits of furniture in the room, the keyboard and the computer desk.

front roomPlans are afoot to try and minimise any further wear on the carpet from my computer chair. The carpet and I are about the same age so some wear and tear is inevitable.

In the garden, the tulips were not impressed by the cold morning….

tulips…but the cold weather did bring more birds back.  There was a lot of standing about….

chaffincheschaffinch and plum tree…although the sparrows were working hard on the lawn.

sparrowsAs the day went on, the sun came out and although it never became warm, it was another bright spring day.

goldfinchI went out into the garden again and met beauty and the beast.

flowering currant

A delicate flowering currant.

rhubarb

And a very suspicious looking rhubarb.

The azaleas are looking promising and if they survive the promised sub zero temperatures tonight, should be out soon.

azaleasWe just had time to finish laying the carpet and moving the furniture before it was time to go off to Carlisle to sing with the Community Choir there.  Our conductor and pianist were delayed by train troubles on their way down from Glasgow but we got going after a while and had another good session.

We enjoyed the fine weather for the drive home and when we got back, I chased after some tulips which had recovered from the cold morning….

tulips…and noticed that one of them had a large patch of yellow on it.

tulipVery odd.

Mrs Tootlepedal picked some rhubarb and flowers and with these suitably bundled up, we set off for an evening meal with Mike, my cello playing friend and his wife Anne.  The company included the third member of our trio, Isabel with her husband and also Scott, the minister and his wife.  The meal was excellent and the company congenial and it rounded off a very good day.

The laying of the carpet signifies a return to normality in our household arrangements after a month of recovering from the knee operation followed by two months of the end wall improvement.   There is still more to be done but Mrs Tootlepedal was mightily pleased by the day’s work.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its wings in full use.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the world’s greatest small person in reflective mood at a party.

MatildaAfter breakfast, I waved good bye to Mrs Tootlepedal as she set off to Dumfries with three colleagues from the Ewes WRI group to take part in a competition for 15 minutes of prose and poetry readings on the theme of childhood.  This competition covered groups from the whole of the South of Scotland and was a new venture for the Ewes group who were asked to enter to represent their larger local area.

I got a text from her in the afternoon to say that the group had won the handsome trophy, surprising no one more than themselves.  However, having heard all the other entries, Mrs Tootlepedal did feel that there had been no luck about the outcome and the four ladies were quietly pleased that their hard work had borne fruit.

In her absence, I spent a second very peaceful day, lazing about the house and only going for a short walk after lunch.

I had all the time in the world to admire the blossom on the plum tree.

plum tree with chaffinchI set up the camera on a tripod at the kitchen window and sat at the table with the wireless remote to hand doing the crossword and snapping birds simultaneously.

wet feederThe rainy morning helped me to avoid any strenuous activity.  The rain stopped from time to time and the light was reasonable.

chaffinchThe rain had brought a few siskins to the feeder and they were as rude as ever….

siskinsiskin and chaffinch…though not always successfully.

The weather took a turn for the better after lunch and when the sun threatened to come out, I went for a stroll round Easton’s Walk.  We have some way to go before everything is green….

Stubholm track…but I was delighted to see a bluebell (completewith insect visitor) in the woods beside the track…

bluebell…the first of a multitude to come I hope.

By the time that I got back to the park, the sky was blue and the poplars beside the river looked very fine, both when I was looking up to them….

poplars…and when I was walking along under them.

poplarsWhen I got home, there was time for a garden inspection.  Mrs Tootlepedal is aiming for a stream of hyacinths flowing through the flowerbeds round the front lawn.  The plan is developing well.

stream of hyacinthsI inspected the potential fruit crop and was happy to see gooseberry, apple and blackcurrant all looking promising.

fruitThe sound of bees was reassuring.

I chopped a few more logs for our wood pile and then mowed the grass round the greenhouse and on the drying green.

I had one last look at the plum blossom….

plum blossom…and a blackbird….

blackbird…before it was time to welcome Mrs Tootlepedal home, have a cup of tea and set out for a visit to Cockermouth in Cumbria.

We were going to see a performance by an amateur group.of a version of the Beggars’ Opera, with music adapted from the version written by Benjamin Britten.  The reason for our interest in this show was the presence of  no less than three of my fellow tenors from our Carlisle choir among the cast.

The drive down in the evening sunshine was glorious with the Lake District hills looking at their best so the forty miles passed very pleasantly.  We brought a sandwich to sustain us, admired the blue clock faces on the handsome church beside the car park…

cockermouth church…and went into the small theatre for the show.

The small size of the stage was a definite handicap to the production which lacked a bit of pace as a result but my three choir colleagues all did their bits with enthusiasm.  I can’t say that I think that Britten’s approach to the songs suits the show and the musical director’s rather careful tempos didn’t help.  The end result was a certain lack of out and out gaeity in the satire which is probably needed to contrast with the more sentimental moments.  The cast worked really hard though and the audience appreciated their efforts wholeheartedly.

The drive home in the dark was accomplished safely and unsurprisingly, Mrs Tootlepedal was quite tired when we got back.

The flying bird of the day is a down to earth chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest pictures, sent to me by Bruce, shows some of the inhabitants of Gilnockie who haven’t decided how they are going to vote in the forthcoming general election.

GilnockieIt was hard to know who or what to blame.  Was it the dry spell making for dusty conditions, was it the flowers in the garden or pollen from neighbouring trees, was it dust from the end wall work which still lies in many nooks and corners of the house or was it just life?  Whatever it was, my breathing was a little below par today and I was happy to wander around doing as little as possible.

I was assisted in this by Dropscone, who brought round some of his traditional Friday treacle scones.  He had already cycled 20 miles and I was happy to have let him do the work for today.  The scones were very good.

Mrs Tootlepedal was varnishing away in the front room and in between letting coats dry, she moved some of the furniture back in during the day.  I lent a small hand from time to time.  In a startling move, some of the furniture has gone to a different corner of the room than it occupied before.  It will take me a year or two to get used to this.

The change in the weather predicted by the forecasters had begun but it was still a pretty pleasant if windy morning and i walked round the garden…

daffodils and tulips…doing a little dead heading of daffodils.  There are still plenty left though and they go well with the tulips.

daffodils and tulipsThe blossom on the plum tree is nearly at its peak….

plum blossom…just in time to catch the drop in overnight temperatures to near zero at the weekend.   We hope for the best.

In the mornings recently, teams of sparrows have been ranging the lawns pecking away and today they were adding a few dance steps to their routine.

sparrowsI went out to see if the little fishes were still swimming in the dam (they were) but got distracted by this fine clump of marsh marigolds instead.

marsh marigoldsThe sun faded away with the morning but the weather stayed dry so after lunch, I went off for a very slow walk round the Castleholm.

I paused in the Clinthead garden to enjoy the good work the gardeners have done.

ClintheadIn the absence of any interesting birds on the Kilngreen, I bought an ice cream cornet from the van there, and licked and walked as I went on.

There were flowers growing wild by the side of the road as I walked up to the Lodge….

bluebell and anemone….though some may be garden escapes.

primrose and red flower…and there were plenty of shades of green to be seen as well, both on the ground…..

golden saxifrage

A pool of golden saxifrage under the trees

…and on the branch.

leavesI looked at trees from a distance…

trees…and close to.

treeMy knowledge of tree species, unless I am walking beside Mrs Tootlepedal, is minimal but I can still enjoy their leaves.

I do know a lime tree though.

lime treeSome fallen branches among the limes gave me a chance to admire some lichen which would otherwise have been above my head.

lichenI stopped at the Jubilee Bridge in the hope of seeing a tree creeper or a nuthatch but instead I was entertained by a wren on a branch shouting energetically at the bushes below.

wrenAfter a while two other wrens, scrapping furiously, emerged from the undergrowth like rockets and disappeared.  I would like to have known what was going on.  (Wrens are very small and hard to photograph!)

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set to work reducing the pile of cherry tree logs to firewood with the aid of our neighbour Liz’s log splitter.  While we were at work, Liz herself appeared and seizing the splitter from us, spilt twice the number of logs that we had and in half the time.  She loves splitting logs.  We stood to one side saying things like, “You won’t be able to split this large misshapen and knotty log,” in innocent tones.  That was like a red rag to a bull to her and firewood soon flew off in all directions.

I had time to be impressed by the flourishing dog’s tooth violets….

dog's tooth violets…before it started to drizzle and I went in.

I rounded off a quiet day with an even quieter evening.

The flying bid of the day is a very determined chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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