Archive for Apr, 2016

A day out

No guest picture today but a farewell one instead.  We went off in the morning to visit Fife and waved goodbye to the tulips as we went in the hope that we may see them in flower when we return.


Mrs Tootlepedal will be very upset if they have come and gone before we get home.

Our journey took us towards Edinburgh and we were impressed by the amount of snow on The Pentland Hills when we got near to the city.

Pentland Hills

We made a stop at a large garden centre for lunch and then visited a butterfly-filled greenhouse attached to the garden centre.  It was wonderful.  I took so many pictures that I have put them in a separate post which you can find by clicking on the butterfly.


We pressed on northwards, circling the city on the by-pass and crossing the Forth on the suspension road bridge.  Mrs Tootlepedal was able to catch a glimpse of the new supported beam bridge as we went by.  Maybe the next time that we come this way it will be via this new bridge.

New Forth crossing

Once we had crossed the bridge we turned eastwards. A tempting sign offered us a Forth Bridges viewpoint and we tried to find it.  Either it has been overtaken by the vast building works that are going on or someone has stolen the signs to it, because we never found it.

We took the coast road, pottering along through many small towns and villages, stopping to visit the beach at Burntisland and look across the Forth at Inchcolm Island…


…and the skyline of the Edinburgh on the far shore.


The snowcapped Pentlands made an impressive backdrop.

We could also see the familiar outlines of Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags.

Arthurs seat from Fife

It was a beautiful day as this picture looking back across the links beside the sea shows.


We arrived bang on time at Anstruther, our destination, and settled into the cottage which we have hired for a week.

Anstruther is one of the coastal villages in the East Neuk of Fife and is famous for its fish and chips.  With this in mind, we thought that we ought to work up an appetite and went for walk through the village.

The Old harbour

The old harbour, outside our cottage door.


An old church which has suffered many vicissitudes and is now much reduced in size from its prime.  John Knox preached there on one occasion.

We looked back from the church towards the new harbour front.


Then we walked past the new harbour…


…and into Cellardykes, a village so close to Anstruther that it is hard to tell them apart.  Cellardykes has a handsome Toolbooth…

Cellardykes tollbooth

…and houses built so close to the sea that they can probably catch fresh fish from their sitting rooms when the tide is in.


There was no way in front of the houses so we had to walk through the village, spied upon by the natives as we went.


We found a gap and looked across at the Isle of May…

Isle of May

…which is a haven for sea birds.  We hope to take a boat trip there later in the week of the weather is suitable.

We got as far as the harbour at Cellardykes…

Cellardykes harbour

…where Mrs Tootlepedal remarked on the interesting way in which the harbour wall is constructed…

Cellardykes harbour

…before heading back to Anstruther and the chip shop.

The fish and chips lived up to their reputation.

After tea, I popped out to see if there were any flying birds about and took the opportunity to point the zoom lens across the Forth towards the Bass Rock, site of  a world famous gannet  colony.

Bass Rock

It was only when I looked at the picture on the computer that I realised just how many windmills there are on the hills to the south of the Forth.

Sadly, the forecast doesn’t suggest that the next few days will match the first one as far any sunshine goes but we hope for the best.

A local gull obliged by gliding past to become the flying bird of the day.

flying gull



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These are some of the sights that we saw when we visited Butterfly World, just south of Edinburgh.  The biggest and the best of the butterflies that we saw didn’t settle for a moment so there are no pictures of them but there was lots to enjoy including some things that definitely weren’t butterflies.  I have put them in a gallery.

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This doesn’t really convey the wonder of seeing the air filled with exotic creatures floating past you but it will have to do.

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Today’s guest picture is the ZurichSee, taken this morning.  It was sent me from Zurich by Hilary, Dropscone’s niece, my Zurich correspondent.


The weather in Langholm could hardly have been more different as it was an absolutely foul day, temperature in low single figures, intermittent heavy showers and a cruel and ruthless wind making life far less than joyful.


The birds were in subdued mood


A redpoll, seeing the perches full, chose to go elsewhere rather than start a fight

As such it was a disappointing day to be meeting three charming Americans, Theresa, Teri and Barbara who had come to Langholm to do some family history research.  They had enlisted the help of the Langholm Archive Group and I had sensibly recruited my friend Brenda, a proper archivist and family historian to be on the team.

I picked them up at the local B & B where they were staying and we walked along to the Archive Centre where Brenda presented them with impressive folders of the results of her research.  After some conversation, we drove off to visit Staplegordon graveyard to try to find the gravestone of one of Theresa’s ancestors.

The weather was at its worst and the graveyard, being in an exposed position, gave the wind and the rain every opportunity to find cracks in our defences.  Theresa had sprained her ankle the day before, which didn’t improve matters at all but they battled on.

crossing the field at Staplegordon

Brenda was able to pinpoint the gravestone….

Brenda at Staplegordon

..which also provided a little relief from the gale.

Theresa and Teri

Theresa and Teri posed for the record

We didn’t linger too long as it really wasn’t pleasant at all and we were soon on our way to the Wauchope Graveyard to visit another grave.  Mercifully the rain had let up by the time we got there and after a little looking around, the stone was identified.

Menzies grave

It was beautifully engraved.  This was one time when I could have done with a little less lichen.  Our visitors were very pleased to have found both stones.

Wauchope Churchyard with Theresa

And they coped very well with the hostile weather conditions, only mentioning the contrasting weather in California every ten minutes or so.

We dropped Brenda off (she had business to attend to) and I drove on to visit other spots which were of interest to our visitors as they had appeared in a memoir of Langholm in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century written by an ancestor.

We visited Broomholm…

mossy wall Broomholm

…Skippers Bridge (site of childhood exploit involving an owl)…

Skippers Bridge

…where in spite of the rain, the water was low enough to allow Teri and Barbara and me to get right down to the waterside to photograph the bridge.

I liked the view through the bridge.

Langholm Distillery

I pointed out to Teri that it was illegal for a person with a camera in hand to cross the bridge without taking a picture of the distillery and she duly obeyed this iron law.

Langholm Distillery

We ended our short tour by visiting the Duchess Bridge, which was looking very elegant in spite of the weather.

Duchess Bridge

I took the visitors back to the Eskdale Hotel and dropped them off there for lunch and said goodbye to them.  I would have liked to have had more time to spend with them but I had a good deal of organising to do with Mrs Tootlepedal at home as we are off for a short holiday ourselves tomorrow.

I had a moment to bird watch…


Two chaffinches had sneaked in among the goldfinches.

…but mostly it was nose to the grindstone.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a short and not entirely successful go at a couple of sonatas.  She has family coming to visit tomorrow so perhaps we both had our minds on other things.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch


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Today’s guest picture is another interesting thing encountered on her walk with her family through Plessey Woods by my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona.

Plessey Woods

There was a moment of glorious sunshine today but unfortunately for a late riser like myself, it was before breakfast and by the time that I was ready for the world it had turned grey.  At 2°C it was even colder than it has been of late so I was more than happy to welcome Dropscone (with scones) round for a cup of coffee or two.

What happened subsequently was entirely his fault.  He and a friend decided to play golf and as a result, it promptly started sleeting and snowing and then kept this up for the rest of the day until early evening.

This is cause and effect.  I took the winter tyres off our car and the  weather instantly took a turn for the worse.  We bought a barbecue one year and it rained for the whole of the summer.  We just never learn.

The snow didn’t put off the birds who arrived at the feeder in force all day.

busy feeder

 I had to fill the feeders twice.

busy feeder

Some birds had to look carefully to find an empty perch.

siskin and redpoll

I put some time into making a sour dough loaf and by lunchtime, this was the view out of the window.


The snow came and went but the birds kept on coming…

busy feeder

…and coming.

busy feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal and I got in the car and headed south.  It was snowing as we left and when we got to Carlisle, it was raining there.

On our way, we took my speedy bike into bike shop to get a new chain and cassette fitted  and then we continued into Carlisle for a bit of routine shopping.

When we got home, the rain eased off for a moment so I popped out and took a picture which reflected the day pretty well.

Timpen with snow in April

The snow didn’t even have the decency to give the hills a proper covering, just a miserable grey sprinkling.    It was a day with no redeeming features.

Oddly enough, when I leaned over the Town Bridge after taking that picture, there was a good number of birds flitting over the surface of the river, obviously finding insects to eat in the rain.  I just caught one in the corner of a frame by pointing the camera and hoping.

river birds

I thought they might be swallows at first but they were very brown in colouring when seen from straight above so I am open to suggestions.  House martins?

When I got home, our resident birds were as busy as ever.

busy feeder

Very busy.

busy feeder

Having seen a recipe in a handy booklet. Mrs Tootlepedal made us some falafels for tea which made a change from our usual diet.

Then Susan arrived and I went off for my second trip of the day to Carlisle, this time to play with our recorder group.

In spite of a very gloomy forecast, the rain and snow stayed away and we had an uneventful drive and an excellent play when we got there.

The forecast for tomorrow is much the same as the forecast for today.  Sigh.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture harks back to my siblings’ visit at the start of this month and shows Skelwith Force in the Lake District.  It was taken by my sister Mary.

Skelwith Force

Skelwith Force

We had another day of mixed sunshine and showers here with some impressive cloudscapes.  Plans were once again slightly frustrated but the day worked out well enough in the end.

I was due to fill the Moorland bird feeders for some friends who are on holiday and since the light was good when I went up, I was looking forward to spending some productive time in the bird hide there.

However, when I had almost finished filling the feeders, a minibus full of school children drew up and the project leader told me that it was  a school visit.  Plan A went into the bin.

It was still quite bright when I got home so I decided to convert Plan A into Plan B and go and visit the nuthatches but by the time that I had made a pot of coffee for Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, it had clouded over and started to snow.  Plan B hit the bin too.

Plan C involved crosswords, catching up with business and making soup.  It worked well.

I did find a moment to admire an a gymnastic siskin….


…and watch a siskin and a redpoll circling warily round each other.

siskin and redpoll

After lunch, the skies had cleared.  Although it was still pretty chilly for April (6.5°C), the wind was much calmer than yesterday so I put on many layers and took my slow bike out to give the solid tyre another test.

Needless to say, it started snowing lightly as soon as I left our front gate but rather than junking Plan D, I kept going and was rewarded by a small pool of sunshine which very politely kept pace with me as I pedalled along.  All around there were showers and looming clouds…

clouds at the Kerr

…but for nine of the fourteen miles of my ride, I managed to keep away from them.

I didn’t stop much because it seemed a pity to risk being caught up by the rain but I did like the sight of this young Belted Galloway who was as curious about me as I was about it.

belted galloway

The weather to one side of the road smiled upon a pleasant prospect…

View at Ryehills

…but on the other side, more black clouds loomed.

Clouds at Ryehills

My luck couldn’t hold out for ever and as I ground up to the highest point of my ride, I was overtaken by a hailstorm.

Fortunately, the hail was the softest and most gentle that I have ever met so I was spared getting painfully pinged and because it was hail rather than snow, I didn’t even get very wet. To make matters better, I soon cycled through it and came out on the other side.

Since the sun was out again, I stopped at my favourite little cascade on the Wauchope to show that although the weather has been very cold lately, we haven’t anything serious in the way of continuous rain for several weeks and the rivers are very low.

Wauchope cascade

This was a different view taken last December after two solid months of downpours.

wauchope cascade

The low water let me get a close shot of the deformed rocks beside the river…

wauchope rocks

…and a look down stream to a more peaceful stretch.

Wauchope below Bessie Bells

The birds had been very busy at the garden feeders and I had to fill them when I got home.

As well as a bird on every perch and more waiting on the pole and in the plum tree, there was a huge squad of scavengers on the ground too.

scavenging birds

I can count thirty birds here.  There were often more than fifty in the garden at once

The garden was very pleasant, sheltered from the wind and bathed in occasional sunshine.

Flowers competed for attention.


A pulsatilla

Drumstick primulas

Drumstick primulas

Mrs Tootlepedal had painted our back stairs in the morning and was busy in the garden in the afternoon so she was quite ready for a cup of tea after I had had a shower.

Dr Tinker, whose tea detecting system was working perfectly, arrived just in time to join us.  He is going to look after Mrs Tootlepedal’s greenhouse plants next week while we are taking a short break from Langholm life.

As we sipped, we looked out of the window and saw some quite heavy snow so I was pleased with the timing of my ride.  The ground is warm enough and the snow showers short enough that we haven’t had problems with snow settling.

The sun was soon out again and when I was upstairs, I took the opportunity to lean out of an upper window and get a different angle on the birds.

goldfinches and siskins

I suppose that I was having a bird’s eye view from up above.

goldfinches and siskins

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted out her onions and is protecting them against the inclement weather with a row of cloches.  I could see them out of my window too.

onion cloches

In the evening, we went to sing with our Langholm choir and  had a good time getting some polish on pieces which we are going to sing in two concerts next month.

With four choral engagements, two with the Langholm choir and two with the Carlisle choir, in the next two months, we have plenty of homework to do.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches that I looked down on.

flying goldfinch




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Today’s guest picture from my Newcastle correspondent shows a splendid drum kit to be found on a new trail at Plessey Woods Country Park.

Plessey Woods

We had an exciting plan A for today and a fairly exciting fallback plan B too.  A little sunshine as we woke up was encouraging but 5°C and a bitterly cold north wind added to a forecast of snow did not make plan A, a drive of up to 100 miles to visit the blossom garden at Alnwick on the east coast, very attractive.

Plan B was a visit to a famous bluebell spot in the Lake District, a mere 60 miles away and no snow forecast but even this felt too adventurous for the weather which was much more midwinter than spring.

In the end, we had to wait in for a plumber to arrive and neither plan would have been possible, even on a warm day.

Instead, I put the morning to good use and with the help of Sandy and a fully functioning website, we put several weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database between us.

It was nearly lunchtime by the time that we had finished and Sandy went off and I stared out of the window in some welcome sunshine while my baked potato was baking.

The cold weather had encouraged a good turnout of birds.

chaffinch goldfinch

A chaffinch overjoyed at finding a vacant perch.


Goldfinches coming and going

A siskin was rude to a redpoll who flew off but it managed to find a spare perch later and looked very pleased with itself.

sikin and redpoll

The baked potato induced a feeling of internal warmth which gave me enough courage to face the bitter wind and go for a walk and risk a soaking.

I had a last look at the plum tree…

chaffinch in plum blossom

…where the chaffinches were perhaps looking at four very busy pigeons who were busy picking up discarded seed below.


The pigeons are very colourful when the sun strikes their plumage.


The sun was pleasantly warm if you could keep out of the wind and I chose a sheltered route.  The larch trees are one of my favourite spring things with their vivid green needles.


I came to an open bit of the track just as it started to snow and I was very glad to be walking with the wind behind me.  I was wondering about the wisdom of the excursion when fortunately the snow stopped again and I had a moment to even up the recent lamb count on the blog.

We’ve had white and spotted lambs so this was a good moment to meet the black sheep of the family and friends…

mixed sheep

A mixed bag in a field beside the track

Some primroses cheered the day up…


…but the sky still looked menacing so I got tucked into some woods as soon as I could and once safely under cover, I decided to stay in the woods and take a new path (for me) following a stream up the hill.

The woods started out thick and somewhat menacing at times…

Becks woods

…but I soon came out into more friendly surroundings.

Becks woods

The problem was that to my left was a steep little ravine with a stream at the bottom and my way forward was across it.  It looked too steep for an easy scramble down and up so I was just contemplating retracing my footsteps when I saw that I was not the only one who wanted to cross the ravine. Help was at hand….

ravine ladder

…or rather at foot.  A rough ladder had been fixed to the slope (which is much steeper than it looks in the picture) and I was able to use it to descend inelegantly to the stream at the bottom, holding very tightly to the handy blue string as I went.  Very conveniently, there was another one on the other side to let me crawl to the top of the  far bank.

After that, I was able to enjoy a more easy going walk.  I visited the old curling pond…

curling pond

…but saw no interesting birds.  I did see a deer among some young trees further on but it was too quick for my camera.

I walked back down the hill towards the Wauchope road and then home in sunny weather…


…and well sheltered from the wind which had eased for the moment.

There are hints of blossom here and there…


…and I stopped to appreciate the bridge over the Becks Burn where it meets the road.

becks burn bridge

As I walked past Pool Corner, I enjoyed both a dandelion growing out of the top of the wall beside the water and the bluebells which are beginning to make a good show on the bank beside the road.

dandelion and bluebells

I got home dry and was able to watch a couple of subsequent snow showers out of the window from the warmth of the kitchen with a good deal of smugness.

We enjoyed a cup of tea with my Newcastle correspondent’s father who had dropped in to lend us a map.

It wasn’t a day for gardening but I found a gap in the weather  to start the task of turning the compost from Bin B into Bin C.  It was in very good condition and unusually rich in worms.  I hope that they survive the shift and keep up their good work.

A peep into the greenhouse showed that there is plenty to come in the garden.


The early potatoes have gone in and all we need now is some warm weather.

The work of the physio allowed me to skip up and down some rough terrain on my short walk without difficulty and without any bad after effects which was very satisfactory.  However, it didn’t stop me getting quite tired so I was happy to snooze the rest of the day away.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture was provided by my brother.  He thinks there should be a counterbalance to the many white lambs which have appeared in the blog lately.  He saw these diverse lambs on a walk in the Peak Distract.

manifold lambs

We had another cold and (very) windy day today so I was pleased that my banked cycling mileage for the month would let me take a day off without feeling guilty about it.

It was brightened by the appearance of Dropscone and Sandy for coffee.  Dropscone had been shopping so there were no scones but I was able to plug the gaps with a combination of iced buns and mini Jaffa cakes so we didn’t starve.

After coffee, I sat down to make the most of the morning by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database but suffered the first frustration of the day when I couldn’t access the server to put the data in.  This has happened before and cured itself so I am hoping that it might do so again. (It hadn’t by the end of the day.)

The enforced rest allowed me to spend more time than lately in staring out of the window.  There was plenty to look at.

siskin and goldfinch

A siskin and goldfinch having a discussion

The birds looked as though they were feeling the cold a bit, not to mention the brisk wind.


But occasional shafts of sunshine cheered things up a bit.


We certainly have a lot of goldfinches about at present

After lunch, the wind didn’t get any less intrusive…

wood pigeon

Not a happy looking wood pigeon

…but the sun arrived to pick out a redpoll in all its glory.


The wind was still nippy though


And in a moment of almost transcendental joy, it also let me finish turning the contents of Bin C into Bin D.


Have you ever seen anything more exciting?

And then I had time for a garden wander.  There is plenty of colour about even if spring is creeping along very slowly indeed.

April flowers

And useful insects too.

insect of daffodil

bee on tulip

This bee couldn’t find a way into the tulip and banged round the side for some time.

The first tulips are starting to go over but they still have the capacity to delight.


The sun was a cause of  frustration though as it came out at the same time as I had an appointment to visit the physio so I couldn’t make the best of it with a walk.

On the plus side, the visit to the physio was very helpful.  She was pleased with my progress and had useful suggestions for further action and will see me again in a month for a further check.  I walked back home with a spring in my step.

After a cup of tea, I had a moment to look out of the window again.

collared dove

A collared dove paid us a visit

I thought though, that this picture of a chaffinch among the rather scanty plum blossom summed up the day best.


I still had time to go for a walk but I foolishly thought that I ought to try to get some sense out the Archive Group power suppliers as they had not written me the promised letter of explanation after a month of waiting.  This was not a life affirming experience and not only am I no nearly a satisfactory conclusion to my problems but it took so long that I hadn’t time for a walk.

Luckily my flute pupil Luke came to cheer me up with some excellent playing and good signs of progress.  He is a really good lad and I get great pleasure out of our duets.

A final moment of frustration to round off the day came when I got a message from the website hosting company suggesting a solution to my database problems.  It was good to get a helpful suggestion from people who know but the fact that it didn’t work modified my rapture severely.  I will see if my younger son can help me out.  He knows about these things.

The flying bird of the day is one of the flock of goldfinches.

flying goldfinch



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