Archive for Aug, 2017

Today’s guest picture is another from my daughter’s working trip to Venice.  After the storm had passed, she got a better view out of her office window.


We woke to a brilliantly sunny morning and I got up into my cycle clothes, ready for a pedal in the sun.  A look at the thermometer, which was showing a meagre 7°C, suggested that a leisurely breakfast and a good read of the morning papers might be a good idea.

I did get going when the the thermometer hit 9° but it still seemed quite chilly even in the sun.   I couldn’t complain about the views today though….


…but the one of the locals seemed a bit miffed by me standing in her line of vision.

Bloch cow

I cycled an extended loop, taking in Kirkpatrick Fleming and Gretna on my way to Canonbie.  I didn’t stop too often for photos as I had a busy afternoon in mind but the call of this little stream was too much for me….

The Black Sark

…especially as it had a nice bridge over it with some convenient steps so that an elderly photographer could get down on to its bank with ease and dignity.

Black sark Bridge

Every bridge should have such a set of steps.

Black sark Bridge

The reason for cycling an extended Canonbie loop was twofold, first because it was such a beautiful sunny day, with big blue skies….

Gretna road

…and secondly because the 34 miles took me over 500 miles for the month, a total which I consider a minor triumph these days.  One of the best things about being retired is that I can make good use of whatever sunny moments there are in a day so in spite of the rotten August weather, I managed to get out fifteen times during the month and hardly got rained on at all.

When I got back home, Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden and she was literally surrounded with butterflies at times.  There must have been more than twenty peacocks and red admirals flitting about and it was a great sight to see them fill the air above the flowers.

I found a peacock on a calendula….

peacock butterfly on calendula

…and a red admiral on a Michaelmas daisy.

red admiral butterfly

And the shining dahlia had visitors all afternoon.

dahlia with red admiral butterfly

There were poppies and bees again but I noticed a Welsh poppy which I thought compared very well with the Shirley poppies…

Welsh poppy

…and not all the insects were bees.

hoverfly on cosmos

A hoverfly on a cosmos

I do like the Shirley poppies when they have just come out and still have that crumpled paper look.

Shirley poppy

Among the poppies, the cornflowers are a bit overshadowed but they are always well worth a look.


There is a single salvia among the phlox but it is looking better every day.


Oddly, the camera sees it as much more purple and less blue than my eyes sees it but it is still a pretty flower.


Among all the flowers, the seed pods of the tree peony are rather subdued but quite impressive at the same time.

tree peony pods

The main business of the afternoon was a shopping trip to Carlisle, where many necessities were purchased. These included three big bags of farmyard manure, three small bags of coffee beans from around the world (Rwanda, Malabar, Java) and four smaller bags of tea leaves from India and Ceylon.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I have different views of what a necessity is.

It is wonderful to get such treats in a very small city tucked into the far north western corner of England but although you may think that Carlisle might be a little provincial and perhaps even dull, I can report that for today at least, it was a very hip place indeed.


Seen beside the road to the station

I had to wait in the car for a while while Mrs Tootlepedal visited a shop, no hardship in a car park with this fine view of the city walls…

City walls and carlisle cathedral

…and I was almost as surprised as she was when she came back to the car and revealed that she had been into a clothes shop and actually bought some clothes.

We rounded off our shopping with a visit to a discount supermarket and arrived home, tired but happy.  For the first time, I used my phone to pay for our parking time in Carlisle and I must say it is a useful thing to know exactly how long you have left on the virtual meter as being even a minute over time can incur a substantial fine in these days of cash strapped councils.

We passed though brief showers of rain both on the way down and the way back but the sun was shining brightly when we got home and the butterflies were still flitting about.

I ignored them though and took a picture of two nicotiana catching the evening rays.


We had a refreshing cup of Broken Orange Pekoe tea when we went in.

My body was somewhat tired by the end of the day but my spirit was refreshed by the sunshine.

No flying bird of the day today but its place is taken by a fine display of rolls made from scratch by my son Tony.  He tells me that they reminded him of the rolls he used to buy from Dropscone’s bakery when he was a boy.

Tony's rolls


Read Full Post »

The guest picture for this post is not a guest picture  and it is not a poppy but a dahlia.  I took it at the same time as I was taking the poppies so I have put it in here regardless.

dahlia with bee

The poppies are attracting a lot of honey bees, the occasional hoverfly and bumble bees as well.  The noise when I went out this morning was startling as the bees competed to get the best pollen.  I snapped away like mad and I am just putting the results in here without further comment.


It was great to have s sunny interval to enjoy them.

I am ending the post as I started with a non poppy just by way of variety.  This is the new clematis.



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture, sent to me by my friend Bruce, shows an impasse between dog and grandchild.  The grandchild would like the dog to come in and the dog would like to come in….but only if the excessively affectionate grandchild wasn’t there.


I would have liked,  in theory at least, to have gone out cycling today as it was dry, fairly calm and even occasionally sunny.  It wasn’t warm but it wasn’t too cold.  What was there to stop me?


I was acting as a fill-in feeder filler at the Moorland Feeders for friends who were away from town on grandparenting duties so my first excuse of the day was a visit to the feeders with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She had a good time watching buzzards, a hen harrier and a kestrel from the car while I filled the feeders and then sat in the hide.

After seeing very few on my last visit, I hardly saw anything else but chaffinches today.


There were no siskins, no greenfinches, no blue tits, few blackbirds and only one or two great tits…

great tit and woodpecker

…and one woodpecker.

The pheasants have been put out from the hatchery on the Castleholm in readiness for the shooting season so there were a lot of pheasants about.  In fact, I had to be careful not to stand on one of them while I was filling the feeders.

pheasant and feet

One came close to the hide for a drink while I was sitting there.


I waited for some time in the hope of seeing something interesting but after a while there must have been a raptor nearby because even the chaffinches made themselves scarce and the glade fell eerily silent.    We went home.

I might have gone cycling when I got home but there was coffee to be drunk, a crossword to be done and many poppies to admire.


The poppies were not just beautiful to look at but they were also hotching with bees and I took so many pictures of them that I am putting a selection of them into a separate poppy post today and those with an inclination can look at it without everyone having to wade through them all.

There were a great many butterflies about too, enjoying the better weather…

peacock and red admiral butterflies

Peacock and red admiral butterflies

…and as usual, the buddleia was drawing them in.

I am still waiting to see a painted lady or a small tortoiseshell but we have had a good supply of red admirals and peacocks.

I enjoyed a sweet pea which has grown so strongly that it is sticking out of the top of Mrs Tootlepedal’s sweet pea fortress.

sweet pea

And I saw a red admiral sitting on the unopened flower of a lily in the flower garden….

lily and butterfly

A butterfly kiss from the lily. It should look spectacular when (if) it opens

Then  it was time for lunch.

I might have gone cycling after lunch but Sandy suggested a walk at three o’clock and as I wanted to mow the front lawn, there wasn’t time to do both before the walk. I chose the lawn.

Front lawn mowing

You can see the poppies surrounding three side of the lawn.

When Sandy came, we went off in his car along the road to the bird feeders but stopped beside the river at the bottom of the hill and walked up the hill through oak woods and fields to Broomholmshiels before coming back to the car down the road.

It was a short walk but full if interest.

There is a mossy wall beside where we parked the car.

mossy wall

And fine trees in the field at Longwood.

Longwood tree

Longwood tree

The walk through the wood is always a delight but it is even better when the sun comes out for a moment or two.

Oak wood

The oaks here didn’t seem to be suffering from galls in the leaves but only one tree that we saw had any acorns on it…

oak tree

…and we were surprised to see the leaves turning so early on another tree that we passed.

The wood is a sea of green and it is a wonder that the power people have managed to sneak power lines through the heart of it.

oak woods

We saw quite a bit of fungus on our walk, some old and some new.


The thistles have turned to fluff.


Once we were clear of the trees, there were views to enjoy, especially when the sun made one of its brief appearances.


Looking over the Esk valley

Whita heather

Patches of heather among the pylons on Whita

There was still time for a cycle ride after the walk but it seemed a good idea to invite Sandy in for a cup of tea and a slice or two of the oat, plum and ginger bake.  We made sure that he didn’t get away without taking several courgettes with him.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s two courgette plants are producing more than we can eat.

There might still have been time for a short pedal after Sandy left but it suddenly started to rain lightly and so I mowed the green house grass and waited to see whether it would stop.  It got heavier and I took the hint and went inside and looked at my pictures.

It brightened up later but by that time, I had lost any inclination to put foot to pedal at all.   I have done 470 miles this month so there is no compulsion to do more in these final two days.  I did a lot of eating instead today.

I did manage to catch a flying chaffinch while I was at the Moorland feeders so there is a rather fuzzy but genuine flying bird of the day today.

flying chaffinch

You can click here for the poppies if you wish.

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie who is in Venice working.  She caught La Serenissima in a less than serene mood.

Venice storm

A bright start to the day here soon faded to grey but at least it didn’t rain.  It was decidedly chilly for the time of year and I was pleased to have a visit to the dentist after breakfast to keep me off my bike.

When I got back, I watched blackbirds for a bit.  A small group were eating our plums but were not grateful enough to pose properly while actually pecking the plums.

blackbirds on plums

In a neighbouring back yard, another set were devouring rowan berries but I got my camera settings wrong and messed up a couple of ‘beak and berry’ chances.


There are plenty of berries left….


…so I hope to get another chance.

I looked at two good clumps of flowers at the back of the garden before I went back in.



Japanese anemones

After coffee and a slice or two of bread and marmalade, the lack of rain made even a chilly day too good to resist and I got my fairly speedy bike and set off.  It was cold and grey, I was cycling into the breeze and the distant hills were so shrouded in mist that it looked as though I was heading into a rain shower.

My spirit was very weak and I nearly turned for home.

Luckily my spirit may have been weak but my legs were surprisingly strong and drove me on regardless.  In the end, I had a dry and enjoyable 43 mile ride, though it was so grey that I didn’t stop for any pictures of wild flowers or views.

I did stop at Gretna Green for a snack though and noticed a mound next to the car park which I hadn’t seen before.  It had been spiralised…

Gretna Green mound

…so I followed the spiral until I attained the summit and looked at the view.

Gretna Green view

Not very inspiring.

On the other side, inventive entrepreneurs had constructed a courtship maze…

Gretna Green maze

…though why they think that anyone should want to come to a car park in a rather dull and  flat corner of Scotland to do their courting is a mystery to me.  They probably know best though.

Of more interest to me was a small flock of birds on wires nearby.

birds at Gretna Green

Normally if I see birds like this, I assume that they are starlings but on this occasion there are clearly two different sizes of perchers perching.  I have decided that the larger ones are starlings and the smaller ones, sparrows.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden and I had a wander round there too.  She has been using a bit of compost to improve the soil here and there so I sieved a couple of buckets to top up the supply.

I checked out the new clematis…

white clematis

…and a late burst of flowers from Lilian Austin.

Lilian Austin

There are three in the picture although you can hardly see the two behind.

We have had an excellent crop of plums….


Almost the last of the crop

…and for once we got exactly the right amount.  Usually with plums it is glut or starvation but this year we got a steady supply of sweet ripe plums to eat every day for a couple of weeks, with just enough surplus for a plum crumble last week and today’s special, an oat, ginger and plum bake.  It was delicious.

Cosmos, dahlia and poppies are doing their best to cheer us up….

poppy, dahlia , cosmos

The dahlia is sensational

…and I even saw the very last lupin and some late astrantia too.

lupin and astrantia

I dead headed the poppies and cornflowers and anything else that I could get my snippers on  and took a final look round before going in for a cup of tea and a slice or three of the oat and plum bake.

There are still more flowers to come.


The sedum is waiting for a bit of sunshine.


A salvia looking promising

It was time for a shower after the cup of tea and cake and then, as things still looked rather gloomy outside, we sat and looked at the telly in amazed horror at the amount of rain that has fallen on Texas.   It made our month of August, the coldest for thirty years, look positively benign.

We are getting quite excited here as we are promised some sun tomorrow.


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture shows a very bad hair day for a face mask of a student called Tom which was turned into a plant pot.  It was sent to me by Mary Jo from Manitoba.  The class was on death masks but I am happy to say that the student survived.

bad hair day

Our weather got worse today.  It was windy and grey from the start and after lunch, drizzle and then rain was added to the mix.  Not a day for photographs at all.

I spent two of the dull but dry hours in the morning sitting in the Welcome to Langholm office but at least I got some good archive work done and I also welcomed some visitors to Langholm.  As I also sold, a booklet, a CD and a DVD, it wasn’t wasted time.

The afternoon was devoted to mumbling bad words about the weather and doing  indoor business in equal measure…..and some useful time going over the choir songs until I almost believed that I had learned some of them.  (That belief will last until I try to remember them again tomorrow).

I only took three pictures all day.

How do you like them apples?


I have eaten a couple of windfalls from another of the trees and they tasted surprisingly sweet.  We have been eating plums from the plum tree for several days now and they too have been excellent so it doesn’t seem as though the weather has affected the fruit badly at all.

I didn’t dead head any poppies today but I did look at two seed pods from the same plant and I marvelled at their difference.

poppy seed pods

The greyness of the afternoon was brightened by a visit from Mike Tinker for a cup of tea and then by my flute pupil Luke coming for a lesson.   Although we haven’t entirely mastered the Haydn trio we are learning we have set about a Quantz trio for a bit of variety so we are not short of work.

In the evening I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and that ended the day on a better note than it deserved.

The flying bird of the day is a dahlia which has turned up in the middle of the runner beans in the veg garden.



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent.  She has ventured east lately and visited Nuffield House, the home of William Morris, the car manufacturer.  This radiator temperature gauge caught her eye.

Nuffield Place

I note that one of the joys of modern life is not having to worry about your car radiator boiling  every time you come to a steep hill or you get stuck in a traffic jam on a hot day.  Not everything has taken a turn for the worse.

Our weather took a turn for the worse though and it was grey and windy all day. Every now and again, it started to drizzle as well.  I got up late for breakfast and finally got dressed just before midday, having had coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and our neighbour Liz while I was still in my dressing gown.  Life in the slow lane.

I did go out into the garden just after noon and I had a look around.  I think that I have been a bit too disparaging about the dahlias.  They are trying their best and made a good show amidst the gloom today, both seen from a distance…


…and looked into closely.


The poppies continue to flourish and although we dead head dozens each day, more keep coming.


They were looking a bit subdued in the cloudy weather today

The nasturtium growing up the wall beside the front door is enjoying the weather more than I am…


…but the cosmos are rather unhappy and are being very slow to come out.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s beans are recovering after a slow start….

Climbing French and runner beans

Climbing French and runner beans

…and we had some of both with our evening meal.

I went back inside for more sitting down.

Once indoors, I spent quite a lot of time grappling with an extra difficult prize crossword, though I might have saved some of that time if I had discovered that the enumeration for two of the clues was wrong which accounted for quite a lot of the difficulty as it  made the puzzle impossible to solve.

I finally realised that there must be a mistake, checked on the newspaper’s website and got the correct information which put me on the right track but even then it took some hard work and research to get the thing finished.  Who knew that there was a god called Xipe Chec?

Late in the afternoon, I finally got out into the garden in a useful way and mowed the middle lawn, shredded some rose cuttings and trimmed the second last of the box balls.

The drizzle looked as though it might hold off for a bit more so I went for a walk round Gaskell’s while Mrs Tootlepedal cooked the tea.

It was really far too gloomy to take pictures but naturally I took quite a few.

There are some wild flowers still to be see beside the road and paths…

wild flowers

…and in places, the path can hardly be seen for the vegetation.


I saw one of the many umbellifera showing all three stages on one stem…


…and another plant further on which had got to the final stage.


There were lots of signs of the turning of the year.


A lot of our oak trees in different places seem to have galls on their leafs this year.  I passed more on this walk and I had to look hard to find any acorns.

oak and acorn

It was easier to spot sloes (sloely ripening) and any amount of haws.

sloes and haws

There wasn’t as much fungus about as I had hoped…


Nothing fresh and new

…but there was plenty of lichen.


A little lichen garden on top of a fence post

park wall

A damp spot on the park wall

The park wall had brighter moments with ivy leaved toadflax and a contoneaster.

cotoneaster and ivy leaved toadflax

I had a look at the potentillas along the dam when I got home.  They are still doing well.


My arm is improving slowly which is comforting and there is nothing in life that a week of warm sunny weather wouldn’t cure.

The flying bird of the day is a poppy which had risen above its friends this morning.



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother who has recently visited Whitby and took this excellent picture of the town.

The other side of Whitby, taken from halfway down the stairs

We were promised a nice day today and although it had rained again over night, it wasn’t a bad morning even though it was cloudy and rather chilly again.  I was in no rush to get going on my bike as I was disappointed that the weather was not better but after a quick look round the garden…

poppies and clematis

The new clematis finally making an appearance along with the usual damp poppies

…I finally got going, armed with a banana, a honey roll, some dates and guava.

I was in a bit of a grumpy mood as I pedalled up the hill to the top of Callister, into a cool wind with grey skies overhead.   There have been far too few sunny, warm summer cycling days this year and although compared with Texas we are in a very good place, I still felt the lack of warmth on my back quite keenly.

The wild flowers are going over which didn’t help my mood.

ragwort and willowherb

Still, once I was over the hill and heading south there was extra food by the road side….


…and some interesting buildings to look at….

Eaglesfield Church

A curious looking modern church in Eaglesfield


The ex nuclear power station at Chapelcross being slowly and steadily dismantled

…and the occasional break in the clouds to cheer me up.

I also like trees so I enjoyed this row of four of them marooned in the middle of a field near Eastriggs.

Eastrigg trees

I was intending to visit the Solway shore when I got down to the coast but a quick look showed me that the tide was so far out that I could almost have walked across to England so I didn’t bother and went to Gretna where I had egg and chips for my lunch while people got married in the marriage room attached to the cafe.

Cheered up by all this, I headed further south into England after lunch.  There was a patch of pink nettles that caught my attention near Rockcliffe…


…and I had a look at the River Eden from a high bank.

River Eden

It was quite  a clear day even though it wasn’t sunny and I could look across the Eden towards the Lake District hills.

Lake District hills

The television mast at Caldbeck shows up very clearly.  We used to get our telly pictures from there via a relay on the top of a local hill but now we have entered the satellite age and get digital pictures from the sky.

I pedalled down to Harker, where I passed a major node on the National Electricity Grid.


I am amazed that I can pedal so close to so much power and not feel a thing.  It always seems a bit daring to go past the station.

I pedalled quietly along the back roads of north Cumbria, passing the church at Kirklinton…


A truly pastoral scene

…and shortly after passing the church, I stopped at a little stream because the sun had come out and I thought it was worth a picture…

Kirklinton stream

…and it had a nice bridge too.

Kirklinton bridge

My route took me back through Longtown and as it was such a nice day by now, I made a little diversion to Corries Mill on my way home which let me stop to eat my honey roll at another little bridge and stream.

Near Corries Mill

The stream may be in danger of being  blocked though as one of the large trees beside it has an ominous fungus growing on it.

fungus on tree

I was going to continue my diversion but some grey clouds looming up made me settle for a direct route home so I headed down to the A7 from Cubbyhill and had the great pleasure of a wind almost directly behind me to help me over the final two hills.

Because of my grumpy mood at the start, I had adopted a very gentle pace for the ride and although I speeded up a bit when I found the wind behind me, it was very relaxing trundling through the countryside and I finished the ride in a lot better mood than when I started.

Even having to stop to put my rain jacket on for a shower just as I got to Langholm did discourage me.

I ended up doing 63 miles in about five and a half hours including all the eating and photo stops so it was a good way to spend the day.  Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy in the garden while I was out and as the rain had stopped, we had a walk round when I got home.

Special Grandma has produced a late flower….

Special Grandma

…and the poppies and wild eyed dahlias looked good.

poppies and dahlia

I had hoped that the new clematis would be fully open by this time but it was still rather tentative.  It should look very good when it does open.


I looked down at less showy plants which I should not ignore.

lobelia and viola

Lobelia and viola which flower faithfully for many weeks

I had enough energy to mow the drying green but not enough for the middle lawn which was on my to do list.  I had a shower and cycled up to the High Street to buy some milk to make custard to go with a plum crumble which Mrs Tootlepedal was cooking for our tea.

On my way back, I took a picture of some late sun which was brightening up the suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge in the evening sun

And that, apart from eating the plum crumble, concluded the business for the day.

No flying bird of the day but my son Tony’s friend Robbie has taken a remarkable picture of Tony’s two dogs enjoying a choral moment so here is that instead.

dog choir

‘Full throated’ is the correct description I think.

Those interested in the bike route can click on the map below for more details.

garmin route 26 Aug 2017


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »