Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile Tom in South Africa, and shows what a garden there can do in mid winter.
Our spell of excellent weather continued today, and the sun was shining as we cycled off to church to sing in the socially distanced church choir. With two sopranos, two altos, a tenor and a bass, we were not a big choir, but we sang as strongly as possible, and in our own way, made a cheerful noise.
We had coffee by ourselves for once when we got home, and then it was time for a wander round the garden.
I actually started by wandering out of the garden and along the dam at the back of the house. The red poppies are multiplying at one end of the house but at the other, the much pruned fuchsia and the much frosted lilac are not quite so showy.
In the garden, the azaleas are doing better . . .
. . . and the first roses have arrived. They are small but very welcome.
I am always impressed by what lengths nature goes to provide interesting looking flowers to keep me entertained.
I noticed a siskin on the feeder practising that ‘over the shoulder’ look that celebrities use when they know that a cameraman will catch them when the look round.
We were standing in the drive when we were nearly decapitated by some low flying swifts who are nesting in the eaves of our house. They swooped in and out with alarming ferocity.
There is a shortage of swift nesting sites, we are told. Some people put up swift boxes but we just have a hole in our house which seems to do the job.
I sieved some compost, did some watering in the vegetable garden and dead headed some Welsh and Icelandic poppies, and then had another wander round before lunch.
Three sets of three blue flowers took the camera’s fancy.
I had used all the compost in Bin C when I had finished my sieving, so after lunch I started shifting the contents of Bin B into Bin C. We have been trying out more cardboard in our composting lately as we have had no dedicated paper and card recycling until this month, and the recycling bins at the Co-op were always overflowing. It was gratifying to find that almost all of the card has rotted down well, especially as we have been putting even more card among the garden waste in Bin A.
We spent some time watching the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné bike race. Considering that the winner of the race had a puncture at a vital stage of the race today. and his number one lieutenant actually crashed his bike going down a tricky descent, yet they both got back on and continued as though nothing had happened, you have to take your hat off to the mental as well as the physical strength of these great riders. Roll on the Tour de France.
I checked on the bird feeder to find the usual suspects in residence.
Inspired by the racing cyclists, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a bike ride of our own after I had attended the virtual choir practice of the Carlisle Community Choir.
While not quite a mountain stage, her route round the back of Whita Hill did contain some climbing, rough tracks and a ford.
It was a perfect late afternoon for an outing.
We started by going through the town and then along the river . . .
. . . before climbing up the hill to Broomholmshiels . . .
…and then onwards up the road through hawthorn, buttercup and cow parsley…
. . . to the bird hide. We finally got some downhill as we dropped into the Tarras valley, crossed the river but then we climbed back up to Cronksbank.
We looked up the Little Tarras valley towards the road that would eventually take us back to the town.
There were plenty of wild flowers to give me an excuse to stop for a photograph.
We cycled happily along the track from Cronksbank to Perterburn and then Mrs Tootlepedal fearlessly led the party across the raging ford that must be crossed to get to Middlemoss and the road home.
We were just over half way round by this time so we stopped under the pine trees . . .
. . . for a snack and a drink of water before climbing back out of the Tarras valley by the track back to the road.
It really was a fabulous evening by this time and there more things to notice by the way . . .
. . . including the little hangers attached to power lines to try to stop the birds of the moor crashing into them.
The views weren’t bad either. The hills are green now . . .
. . . and the light was good.
We had one last hill to climb as we went up to the White Yett before rolling back downhill into the town. . .
. . . but fortunately this is one of those very rare hills which are a lot easier to climb than they look. There is something about the gradient here that makes pedalling uphill a pleasure.
At the top of the hill, we found film maker Fred busy setting up for filming and recording the dawn chorus on the moor tomorrow morning. We arranged to meet him again next week and then freewheeled down the hill back home.
At just under ten miles, there can have been few better ways to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than this on leisurely scenic ride.
It was exactly time for our evening meal when we got home, so we had organised things well. It was definitely a day on the credit side of the great ledger of life.
The flying bird of the day is one of the siskins at the feeder with a little mayhem in mind.
Hedgehog update: Unfortunately, Mrs Tootlepedal’s cat defences were not up to the job of repelling unwanted visitors last night and we saw two cats in the garage when we checked the trail camera footage this morning, and no sign of the hedgehog. Mrs Tootlepedal has strengthened and narrowed her defences tonight and we will check the camera tomorrow. If there is no sign of the hedgehog on it, we will check the nest itself.