Archive for Oct, 2016

Today’s guest picture is a south coast sunset, seen by my sister Mary from St Leonard’s-on-Sea.


Once again, I managed to get up reasonably promptly and get out on my bicycle in good time.  I was due to do my stint in the Welcome to Langholm office at eleven o’clock so I only had time for my habitual twenty miles to Canonbie and back.

On this occasion, Mrs Tootlepedal was up early too so I got some sustaining porridge and this resulted in an increase of a mile an hour in my average speed compared with yesterday.  If any porridge oat sellers would like to make something of this, I am open to offers.

When I got to the tourist office, it was already open and soon there was a press call in action as two of the other volunteers had qualified for certificates in hospitality and our local newspaper was there to record this auspicious event.

Tourist office photocall

This was the highlight of the morning and tourists were notably lacking for me to exercise my hospitality skills on for the rest of the time.

The weather gods were in teasing mood so I had done my morning bike ride in mist, the sun had come out when I went into the office and it then went back in again just as I came out.  How I laughed.

The sun came out again after lunch and I watched the birds for a moment….


Goldfinches approaching the feeder doing the breaststroke


Greenfinches using the butterfly stroke.

As it looked promising, Mrs Tootlepedal and I decided to take the car down to the Hollows and then walk the mile along the old road to Canonbie, have tea in the Church cafe there and then walk back along the other side of the river.

The weather gods were still having fun though and the sun disappeared as we drove down and we had to walk under misty clouds.  There was almost no wind though and with the temperature just under 50F, it was still a lovely day for an autumn walk.

Going to the cafe:


The Byreburn bridge

River at Byreburn

The Esk from the bridge

acorns at Byreburn

There were hundreds of acorns beside the road at the bridge


And a feast of fungus a little further on


A sheep had her scary clown Halloween mask on

River esk

Looking back up river

Old A7 Canonbie

It was hard not to stop all the time…

Canonbie churchyard

…but we finally got to the church

To our surprise, the little cafe at the church was nearly full but there was just room for us to sit down and enjoy a pot of tea and a slice of fruit cake between us.  The cafe is run by volunteers for the benefit of the village and considering that there were twenty people chatting and taking refreshment while we were in, it must be considered to be doing a grand job.

We crossed the river by the Canonbie Bridge and then walked up a path behind the old post office to join the top road back to the Hollows.  It had got a little misty by this time.

Going back from the cafe:

The Riverside Inn

Looking down over the old Riverside Inn with Canonbie School in the background behind the trees

Canonbie Village

Looking over the village

Byreburn House

Byreburn House on the far bank of the river


A fine crop of apples

The trees beside the Esk on old A7

Looking across at our outward route which had been among these trees which line the river

Hollows Mill

Coming down to the cottage before Hollows Bridge

View from Hollows Bridge

And the view from the bridge

Archimedes screw

In spite of the low water, the Archimedes screw was working well.

At three miles, this was  a perfect length for a gentle stroll with many stops for photo ops and in spite of the lack of sun (we could see hints of blue sky nearer Langholm when we got back to the car!), it was a hundred per cent enjoyable.

I didn’t have long when we got back before it was time to cook my tea and welcome my flute pupil Luke back from holiday.  He was a bit rusty due to lack of practice but we had a good play nevertheless.

Then there was just time to eat the tea (feta and potato bake, much more successful than yesterday’s efforts) before I packed up my flute and headed off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We had another go at our Mozart trio and I am quite sure that after a week’s practice, the composer would easily have recognised his work today.  It is good to play a work that really stretches us.

My twenty miles this morning took my cycling miles for the month up to 450 which is very satisfactory.  I have got about 360 miles to go to reach my 4000 mile target for the year so I am just hoping that the frost, snow and ice will kindly keep away until I have done them.

The flower of the day is a very surprising and welcome late burst by the Special Grandma rose…

Special Grandma rose

…and the flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

flyng goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter Annie.  She would like to take all the credit for this fine hanging basket in her garden but has to admit that she purchased it from B&Q.

Annie's hanging basket

The clocks went back an hour in the middle of the night so in theory, I could have enjoyed an extra hour in bed in the morning.  Things didn’t work out like that though.  I had resolved to make good use of the extra hour of light in the morning by getting up early and going for a cycle ride before breakfast.  Much to my satisfaction and Mrs Tootlepedal’s outright astonishment, I did just that.

I didn’t quite get up as early as I hoped but I was still out before Mrs Tootlepedal was awake and I completed my twenty mile round trip to Canonbie before she had gone off to sing in the church choir.

It was grey and the roads were damp but with the temperature just below 50F and with very light winds, it made a good start to the dark months.

It was too gloomy for pictures so I had to wait until I was home before I got a camera out.

The feeder was busy…


..until a jackdaw arrived and scared everyone off.


With the fat ball feeder enclosed in a cage and the seed feeder too finicky for its big feet, it didn’t stay long though and the greenfinches, chaffinches and sparrows were soon heading back to the feeder.

sparrow, greenfinch and chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from church and after a cup of coffee, set about clearing the dahlias from the second of the flower beds along the drive so that she could plant more tulips.

I spent a little time practising songs for our Carlisle choir and then went out into the garden too.  I did some shredding of defunct dahlias, some sieving of serviceable compost and some wandering about with a camera.

anemone, dahlia, daisy and poppy

In the white corner: anemone, dahlia, daisy and poppy

sabius, dahlia, poppy and poppy

In the red corner: scabius, dahlia, poppy and poppy

marigold and nasturtium

In the orange corner: marigolds and nasturtium (showing that with the right disguise even a gas meter cover can look quite good)

I have sieved all the compost in Bin D and Mrs Tootlepedal tells that the rough compost that is left can easily be used for a winter mulch so it will soon be time to start the process of turning the bins again.

I made a pan of very plain and dull soup for my lunch and ate it with some freshly made bread and two varieties of cheese, which mitigated the dullness a bit.

After lunch, there was time for a little more gardening and bird watching.

chaffinch and greenfinch

Some displayed neat flying skills near the feeder

goldfinches in plum tree

Others gathered in the plum tree

Greenfinches played the tough guy.


A top grade snarling competition.


Perch bagging

Soon the new flower bed was planted and raked.

flower bed

Mrs Tootlepedal was happy.

There was no time for a walk today as we had to set off for Carlisle for our regular Sunday Carlisle Community Choir practice.

Our excellent conductor was unable to come today but he had sent down a very adequate substitute and we had a useful and hard working session.  We were in full Christmas mode as our next engagement will be our Christmas concert.  Even though I had practised earlier in the day, the many mistakes that I managed to make showed that it is by no means too early to start work on the concert pieces.

They may well write on my gravestone, “More practice required,” and they will be right.

Now that the clocks have gone back, it was fully dark when we drove home and so there were no more chances to take pictures.

I had another plate of the dull soup for my tea in the hope that some resting time in the pan and another few minutes cooking might have enlivened it….but it hadn’t.  Luckily there was still good bread and cheese to go with it.  I followed it up with some stewed apples and custard.  I mistakenly thought that my custard skills were up to being able to dispense with any accurate measuring of quantities and ended up eating apples and concrete.  It has not been my finest cooking day.

The flower of the day is one of the surviving dahlias….


…and the flying bird is a chaffinch.


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If you want autumn colour in England, then Stourhead in Wiltshire is the place to be as today’s guest picture from my sister Mary shows.  (She went with her friend Venetia and you can see more pictures of the garden if you want on Venetia’s blog.)


We can’t quite match a Greek temple in our garden but the azaleas and spirea are doing their best to come up with some colourful foliage to see the gardening year out.

azaleas and spirea leaves

They brightened up a moist and misty morning where there was so much humidity that it was sometimes hard to tell whether it was actually raining or not.

There were paler colours to be seen as well.

philadelphus and hydrangea

Mrs Tootlepedal was intent on reducing the amount of colour in one part of the garden at least and spent time digging up the dahlias in one of the front beds.  I helped out by putting them through the shredder and also sieved some compost that could be put on the bed when the dahlias had gone.


Mrs Tootlepedal distributed some tulips on top of the compost then dug the compost in, planted the bulbs in their places and finally raked the whole bed over neatly.

Now we wait.

Meanwhile, I watched the birds.  Goldfinches were lurking and looming around the feeder.


Then there was a moment of calm….

goldfinch, sparrow and greenfinch

…before the greenfinches took over the looming and lurking duties.


There was a bit of argy bargy as to whose perch it was.

goldfinch and sparrow

It was still  rather grey after lunch but there seemed for a while that there might be a possibility that the clouds could lift so Mrs Tootlepedal suggested driving up to the White Yett and walking up the track to the monument.

We got to the monument….

monument in mist

…and Mrs Tootlepedal sat and enjoyed the view.

Mist at the monument

This was a little too exciting for me so I looked at the wall behind the monument…..

monument wall lichen and moss

…and at the base of the monument itself.

lichen on monument

As good as any view.

The walk up and down the three quarter mile track was more enjoyable than you might think.  It was comfortably warm for the time of year and the wind was caressing rather than buffeting and there is something very peaceful and other worldly about walking with a fifty metre field of vision.

There were plenty of things to see beside the track.

mosses and grasses

fungus on Whita

When we got back down to the road, I was just looking at the very strong colour of the tussocky grass that covers a lot of the moor at the moment…

tussocky grass

…when we were passed by a car which stopped at the top of the hill in front of us.  People got out and looked about and then to our surprise, several hounds ran across the road….

hound trail

…and disappeared down the hill towards the Little Tarras valley.  It was a hound trail in action and we thought the hounds were doing very well to follow the trail in such damp and misty conditions.

I took the chance to take a picture of one of my favourite little gates…

Whita gate

…and then we too headed back down the hill to the town.

I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to let me make a diversion to Skippers Bridge before we went home because any day now may see the last of the autumn colour.

It hasn’t gone yet though.

Skippers Bridge

I parked beside the bridge and walked onto it, looking north….

Distillery from Skippers Bridge

…and south.

Esk  from Skippers Bridge

And then we went home for a slice of Melanie’s apple cake and a cup of tea.  I sieved another bit of compost while the tea was brewing.   Mrs Tootlepedal has more bulb planting in mind.

After I had drunk my tea, I went back out and picked some raspberries and found that I had enough to make a pot and a half of jam.   There may be some chilly weather coming at the end of next week so I need to get the most out of the garden both as far as fruit and photographs go over the next few days.

The flower of the day is the fuchsia which seems to have more flowers on it every day…


…and the flying bird is a tiny coal tit sneaking surreptitiously between the greenfinches and the goldfinches.

coal tit

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He likes to find interesting places to walk and this shows the Manifold River valley with a secluded magnate’s estate, seen from Ecton Hill in the Staffordshire Peak District.

Manifold valley

We had a much brighter morning than yesterday and I got out into the garden to sieve some compost and dead head some flowers.    With no frost forecast for the next few days, we are hoping to have quite a bit of garden colour still showing in November which will be a treat.

I was spoiled for choice when I fetched the camera out.


nicotiana and cosmos

Fuschsia, clematis and sedum

I looked at the birds when I came in.

plum tree

The plum tree was a popular spot for perching

goldfinch, great tit and greenfinch

It was a good day for birds beginning with ‘G’ – goldfinch, great tit and greenfinch

I didn’t go out on my bicycle because we had visitors, Melanie and Bill, who came for coffee and lunch.   Melanie sits beside Mrs Tootlepedal among the sopranos in our Carlisle choir and her husband Bill is intending to cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats next year with Melanie driving their camper van as the support team.  As we did the same trip a few years ago, they came out to us to look at the route which we took and to see if we had any observations which might be helpful.

We had coffee while we talked over the route and the roads and then we sat down to a good lunch and put the world to rights.  The lunch was rounded off by an excellent apple cake which Melanie provided and we very much enjoyed the visit.  Bill is a keen cyclist and is expecting to do the journey in a week less than we took.

After they had left, I took a moment to have another look at the birds out of the kitchen window.  They were in a sideways sort of mood.

blue tit goldfinch and coal tit

Then we decided to make good use of a calm, dry afternoon by going for a short walk.  The days are drawing in now and the light was already beginning to fade but I took a camera or two with me in the hope of seeing something interesting on our way.

We drove up to Whitshiels and walked up the track through the woods and fields, went across the moor and then came back down the road.

Track from Whitshiels

The larches along the track gave our walk a golden tinge.

I did see things which I thought were interesting…


Stagshorn fungus and British Soldier lichen

…and with the sharp eyes of Mrs Tootlepedal beside me, there was plenty to look at.


Although it was quite gloomy by this time, it was still a pleasure to look back as we climbed up the track.

Whitshiels view

As we looked at the hill on the far right in the background, we noticed something strange about the four windmills of the Craig wind farm….

Craig Wind farm

…and when we counted, it was because there are now five and a half turbines and a crane, presumably waiting to put the blades on to the sixth tower.

Wind farm development is proceeding on several hills round us at the moment and it has to be said that there is plenty of wind to go around.

As we got to the sheep fold at the top of the track, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed a pheasant talking to a passing twig.


The track across the rough pasture was pretty firm after the recent dry spell but there was some colourful sphagnum moss beside it.

sphagnum moss

I had to use a flash for that shot which made the moss look paler than it really is so I had another go with the Lumix to try get truer colours.

sphagnum moss

We had a last look back….

Langholm in autumn

…before we went round the top of the wood and took the road back down to the car.

I really like the mixed colours which arrive in the planted woods when the larches turn and the spruces stay green, especially if there is some deciduous colour as well.  Even though the light was pretty poor as we walked up the hill and  came back down the road, the views were still a joy to the eye.

Behind Langholm Mill

We had time to note a very large set of polypore fungi and and a vibrant bramble stem…

polypore and bramble

…before we drove home.

There is only one more day to go before the clocks go back and walking in the afternoons will be severely curtailed so I was very happy to have had the friendly weather for such a pleasant stroll in such good company.

I looked at the Met Office website this evening and saw that the humidity for today was well over 90% (it is going to be 95% tomorrow) so it is no surprise that the flower of the day,  a delicate pink tinged poppy, is slightly soggy even though it didn’t rain today.


The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch rising above it.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Dropscone.  He walked up to the top of Warbla with his daughter Susan at the weekend and looked down on the town.


A blustery west wind brought in thick cloud this morning and it made for a very gloomy day as I went up to the Moorland Feeders to act as a substitute for Sandy who usually fills them on a Thursday.  He is on holiday for a few weeks and I hope I get sunnier weather when I go up to the feeders again next week.

I sat and watched the birds for a while but it wasn’t a day for photos so I settled for the best that I could do with a woodpecker…


…and came home.

I had a look a some birds in the garden and was pleased to see a greenfinch.


We are expecting visitors tomorrow so there was some tidying up to do when I got back and then it was time for an early lunch and a trip to Edinburgh to see Matilda.  She was in sparkling form and took her father shopping….


…making sure that he had bought the right stuff for our tea.


We had a really entertaining time and were sad when it was time to walk up to the station…


An artily lit bridge by the station entrance.

…and go home again.

I am rather tired after all this fun so I apologise for such a brief post but it makes a useful break for the patient readers after so much endless autumn colour.

The flower of the day is a posy of cut flowers to welcome our visitors tomorrow….


…but a very fuzzy chaffinch was the best I could do in unfriendly conditions for flying bird of the day.



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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who has just got round to sorting through some more of his Marseille pictures.  This one shows the village of L’Estaque and a view popular with Braque, Cezanne and other famous painters.


The wind did move round today as forecast but it was neither as strong not brought so much rain as we were told to expect.  And the promised warmer weather didn’t arrive and in the end, we were left with a grey, uninspiring and dull day.

However, the morning was brightened considerable by the arrival of Dropscone tottering under the weight of a huge quantity of drop scones…

drop scones

There may be a baker’s dozen there.

…but we managed to dispose of them in fine style, aided by a little local honey and some Ethiopian coffee.

While we  were sipping and chatting, a sudden and unexpected flash of colour outside the kitchen window caught my eye.  It was a greater spotted woodpecker, a very rare visitor to the garden indeed.  I didn’t have my flying bird camera to hand but snatched up the Lumix, zoomed out to max and shot from where I was sitting at the table.

Greater spotted woodpecker in garden

The result was a tribute to the camera on a gloomy morning.  I got up to get a better look and the bird flew off in an instant, never to return.

When Dropscone had gone home, I got to work sieving some more compost.  Mrs Tootlepedal has used all my previous pile in her flower bed improvement scheme and tells me that she can do with lots more so I will try to keep sieving a little each day.

I had a look at the birds when I went in and while there was no shortage of goldfinches, there always seemed to be one more about than there were perches available.


After lunch, the goldfinches had been replaced by chaffinches.


There was a hint of drizzle in the air but I was up for a short stroll and Mrs Tootlepedal was keen to show me the Roman fort where she had been working with the archaeologist so we drove up the hill and had a wander about.

Regular readers will know that it is against the law to go past Skippers Bridge on a good day without taking a picture so we stopped on our way to the fort to do our duty.

Skippers Bridge in Autumn

Skippers Bridge in Autumn

The fort itself, although quite large, has not got much to show for itself on the surface…

Roman Fort

This is the boundary mound, the most exciting thing on show.

…but it was built on the top of a small hill with splendid views up the Esk and Tarras valleys.

Tarras valley

Looking across the Tarras

Looking up the Esk

Looking up the Esk

The field itself was full of  fungus.

fungus at the fort

We walked round the outside of the fort site and then visited a beautiful old oak wood just below it.

Oak wood

As we walked through the wood, we could hear the regular sounds on acorns falling to the ground.


The trees were covered with acorns and there were many more fungi here too.

fungus and acorns

I’ll have to try to get back on a better day for taking photographs.

While we were in the area, we decided to go the Moorland Feeders bird hide for a while.

We were entertained by the usual crop of small birds and were thinking about going when a woodpecker arrived.  I only had my Lumix with me so I wasn’t have much luck trying to focus the zoom on fidgety birds when the arrival of a bird of prey which flashed through the glade and perched in a tree…

raptor in tree

A fine picture of the tree and a rotten picture of the bird

…gave me some unexpected assistance.

A woodpecker had been nibbling away at the nuts on a feeder, being very careful to keep the feeder between me and it and only giving me occasional glimpses of its back.  The arrival of the bird of prey however made it decide that I was the lesser of two evils and it carefully put the feeder between itself and the perching bird of prey in the tree and sat so still that I could get quite a good picture of it.


It eventually realised that the hawk had left and scurried off up the tree trunk and disappeared.

The pheasants remained very calm during the whole affair and kept picking about for fallen seed from the feeders as usual.


We didn’t stay for too long as it was getting more and more gloomy and got home in nice time for a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

We did stop on the way down to record a touch of autumn, looking good even in the gloom.

Esk at Broomholm

After we had both had a busy day yesterday, this quiet day suited us very well and the evening was spent being even more relaxed.

The flower of the day is a clematis which is enjoying our autumn weather a lot…


…and the flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, determined to get to an empty perch before anyone else.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a view of the River Trent near Swarkestone Bridge.  My brother Andrew took the shot while out with his walking group.

River Trent

The wind was in the process of moving round from east to west today but it did it very gently and gave us a wonderfully sunny autumn morning on the way.  It was cool enough to put ice on the car windscreen but not cold enough to produce a ground frost.

It would have been a grand day to be going about taking autumn mist and colour pictures but I didn’t have much time to spare so I rushed out after breakfast and took a few without going far from the house.

suspension bridge

River Esk in langholm


Buccleuch park in autumn

The reason for my haste was the need to be in Carlisle for a rehearsal for our community choir concert in the cathedral.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a prior engagement so I went by myself and arrived in perfect time for the practice.

Because the concert was in the middle of a working day, we were by no means at full strength but all the same we must have been about 60 or 70 strong so even in a venue as grand as the cathedral…

Carlisle Cathedral

…we were fairly squeezed in.

We had our practice and then assembled again for the concert.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that all the available seats in the audience had been taken, especially as there was  small charge for entry and we gave our best effort to the occasion.

A member of the audience, who happens to be a reader of this blog, told me afterwards that she had thoroughly enjoyed the concert so that made the work that went into it worthwhile.

The cathedral itself was positively glowing in the brilliant sunshine when we came out.

Carlisle cathedral

…and I enjoyed the walk back beneath the old city walls….

Carlisle City walls

…to the car park below.

Carlisle City walls

It was a golden day.

I drove home, had a cup of tea and a slice of bread and then got changed as quickly as possible to make some use of such a fine day on my bicycle.  It was unfortunate that such a good cycling day should coincide with a concert but such is life.

I did spend a few minutes looking out of the kitchen window while I was waiting for my tea to cool.

I have put a cage on the fat ball feeder to discourage jackdaws from eating me out of house and home and this makes taking pictures of the birds visiting it a bit tricky…

Two blue birds

…but as it also helps to protect them from any sparrowhawk raids, it is worth it.

The goldfinches were using the sunflower seed feeder.


A goldfinch gets a rude welcome…


…but having landed, starts shouting equally rudely

I went round my Canonbie twenty miler but in the opposite direction to my usual tour.  Considering that it starts and finishes at the same place, the amount of climb and descent must be equal whichever way you go but it seemed much harder going round the ‘wrong’ way and as the sun had gone in and it was feeling quite chilly, I didn’t stop to take any pictures but concentrated on getting home as soon as possible.

Mrs Tootlepedal had come home from her engagement and was busy planting out daffodils and exchanging views on life over the garden hedge with Stan, one of Langholm’s finest photographers.


While we talked, a flurry of excitement from the bird feeder heralded a flying visit from the sparrowhawk but it came and went so swiftly that we couldn’t tell whether it had caught a small bird napping or not.

There wasn’t enough light left to make a walk worthwhile so I had a quick wander round the garden….



…where there was more than enough late October colour to keep an old man happy.




Lilian Austin and Crown Princess Margareta


Yarrow, a gift from our friend Jenny’s garden

We have had a long flowering season after a slow start this year.

Then  it was time for a shower and our evening meal (which featured the third and last appearance of the slow cooked venison stew) and a good sit down.

The wind should  have completed its turn by tomorrow and it is due to be quite brisk so I may have a quiet day and catch up on business.  I have done 400 miles on the bike already this month so I am well up on my schedule.

The flower of the day is a marigold….


…and the flying bird of the day is two goldfinches in combative mood.

flying goldfinches

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