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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows all the cakes that he and my sister Susan didn’t eat when they visited a garden centre cafe. They are both models of restraint.

cakes

I was woken in the middle of the night by a tremendous rattling on the windows, and thinking it was another rainstorm, went back to sleep expecting to see high water in the morning again.

In fact, the noise was made by a brief hailstorm and little rain fell overnight.  As a result there had been a marked alteration in the state of the River Esk by the time we went to church at ten o’clock.

IMG_20200216_095108

This was quite surprising but very welcome.

It was still windy and although it was dry, we were pleased to have our coats on when we walked home after the service.

I stooped to look at the first hellebore of the season…

first hellebore

…before going in for a coffee.

The picture is a bit of a cheat as I had to hold the head of the flower up to get the shot.

After coffee, I spent a moment looking at the birds.  In a contrast to the usual state of affairs, it was hard to take picture today that didn’t have a flying bird in it.

flying birds everywhere

I finally managed to get a flying bird free shot, but as you can see from the nervous look on the face of the goldfinch..

Goldfinch looking round

…it didn’t take long for another flier to appear.

flying goldfinch

I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it would be a good idea to go for a walk  The wind was still very brisk so we chose a spot which we thought would be sheltered and drove over the hill to the road along the Tarras Valley.  There is a handy car park there beside the river…

Tarras car park view

…and the road is quiet and perfect for a walk.

the road up Tarras

We headed up the valley with the strong wind behind us.  It wasn’t quite as sheltered as we had hoped.

The Tarras Water trips over many little cascades as it heads down to join  the Esk and even on a chilly winter’s day, this is a delight to cascade lovers like myself.

tarras cascade 1

tarras cascade 2

tarras cascade 3

I tore myself away from the waterside and we walked on until we came to the flatter section of the valley where Arkleton Cottage Stands beside some elegant bends in the river and road.

Arkleton Cottage

On the hillside beside the cottage, there are walls within walls.

walls within walls

As we walked along, Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out for interesting raptors and any sign of other wild life.

She didn’t see any raptors, but she did spot some interesting looking boulders.  When the boulders started to move around, we could see that they were in fact some of the the wild goats which roam these hillsides.

wild goats Tarras

Often they looked like indeterminate lumps among the long grass but when one lifted its head, we could see what they were.  It was extremely difficult to take pictures of them because they were quite far away and the wind was so strong that it was hard to stand up straight.  The Lumix did what it could.

As you can see from the goat pictures, the weather was changeable and we did have the occasional glimpse of sun but by the time that we got to the cottage, which can be approached by a ford…

Arkleton Cottage ford

..or a footbridge…

Arkleton Cottage bridge

….it had started to rain, so we thought it wise to head back to the car.

We were delayed for a moment by some excellent lichen on a boulder…

lichen tarras road 1

..or two…

lichen tarras Road 2

…and talking to a passing cyclist with three dogs who was heading back down the road into the teeth of the very strong wind.  He was very relaxed and this turned out to be because he was on a very serviceable electric mountain bike with fat tyres and low gears.  This was enabling him to face the wind with equanimity.

He pedalled off into the distance and we followed after him, very much slower and battling into a fierce wind which made walking difficult.  The sleety rain in our faces did not help.

All the same we were able to spot another small group of goats.  I rested my camera on a roadside salt container and was just about to take a good shot when the dratted beast stuck its head down behind a tussock and started munching.

wild goat tarras

I had to make do with another cascade further down stream…

Tarras cascade

…and then we followed the river back to the car.

Although we had walked less than two miles, it had felt quite adventurous thanks to the battle against the elements and we drove home very satisfied with our little outing.

Tarras Water

The sun came out when we got back and the birds settled down too.

four goldfinches

Mike and Alison very kindly brought round a cot for the use of our granddaughter Eve, who is coming to visit next week (with her mother) and then we drove off to Carlisle for a choir practice.

We were somewhat nervous about what we might find from flood and storm damage on the way, but the sun came out, the road was dry, and there was no debris at all.  A stranger might have found it very hard to believe that a storm had passed over us at all let alone that there were flood warnings out all over the rest of the country.  Once again, we have been very lucky.

The choir practice had enjoyable moments but in one piece the tenors, who were lacking a few of their competent singers today, found themselves rather exposed by some tricky harmonies.  The need for some serious home work is indicated.  All the same, in our defence, I would like to say that it is very hard to come in on a G when everyone else is singing an A and there is no help from the piano accompaniment. At least, I think it is.

I had put beef stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some vegetables to go with it when we came home.  I counted seven vegetables in the meal in total so it was probably quite healthy as well as being tasty.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  Knowing that I like trees, she sent me this sunlit picture from Margery Fish’s East Lambrook Manor Garden which she recently visited.  She tells me that it has excellent plant sales.

Margery Fish’s East Lambrook Manor Garden

I could hear some heavy rain in the night so I woke up expecting to see that the snow in our garden had disappeared.  It had hung on so it appears that the rain must have been rather sleety.

The lawn covering is more ice than snow but it had survived yesterday’s sunshine and the overnight showers so it get prizes for pertinacity even if it doesn’t look very sparkly.

snowy lawns

The poor crocuses have been sitting around for ages now,  waiting for a warm and sunny day to open their petals…

drippy crocuses

…but the honeysuckles are getting their spring leaves out regardless…

honeysuckle leaves

…and the snowdrops continue to shine.

snowdrops front lawn

While I was out in the garden, I noticed a reflective chaffinch pondering on life, the universe and everything.

cross chaffinch

We should have been going to Edinburgh today to see Matilda but an appalling weather forecast had persuaded us to tell her parents that we would probably not be coming.  It tuned out that the morning wasn’t too bad and we could have driven to Lockerbie without too much difficulty.  All the same, the gloom of the forecast had pervaded our minds and left us unwilling to risk a long journey, so we rang to confirm that we wouldn’t be going.

The day improved as it went along and in the end we decided that we ought to got to Carlisle to buy a baby car seat as our other granddaughter is coming to visit us next week.  We felt a bit guilty about this but our guilt was assuaged when we checked the railway company’s app and found that trains to Edinburgh from Lockerbie had being cancelled anyway as a result of overhead line difficulties.    We had made a good decision.

I spent some time before lunch watching the birds.

There was a good deal of posing going on.

A chaffinch was being cautions and quizzical on the feeder pole…

quizziczl chaffinch

…a blackbird was checking to see if the seed was too his taste…

hungry blackbird

…a siskin was out on a limb…

siskin out on a limb

…while another was having a snack.

happy siskin

On the ground, a dunnock was pretending to be a rock..

dunnock being a rock

…while up above, a chaffinch was obeying her mother’s instruction to sit up straight.

chaffinch sitting up straight

We were visited by five pigeons today…

pigeon strut

…and two doves.

collared dove

When it came to approaching the feeder, different techniques were in operation,

There was sneaking in from the back….

siskin sneaking

..putting your best feet forward…

goldfinch putting its feet up

…and using no feet at all.

siskin feet tucked in

After lunch, we drove to Carlisle in amazingly friendly road conditions and when we got there, the friendliness continued.  A very helpful man at Halfords met our wish for a car baby seat by installing the showroom model in the car, checking that it fitted and that it was what we wanted, taking it out again, selling us a new one in a box, taking it out of the box and fitting that one in the car and finally waving us on our way.  Amazon can’t do that.

As regular readers will know, we suffered a disappointment on our wedding anniversary  in January when we drove all the way to Carlisle to go to the pictures only to find that the cinema was unexpectedly closed because of a problem with the water supply.  We were more lucky today.

The cinema was open, the  film which we wanted to see was still on and there were plenty of seats available.  We took two of them and watched The Private Life of David Copperfield.  It was a very interesting film.  Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed it without reservation.  I enjoyed it too but would have enjoyed it more if the camerawork and editing had been a bit more restful.

The drive home went without trouble, although we passed a large sign warning of of impending heavy rain.

We have had quite enough rain already and when I looked at Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge this morning…

rain gauge

…I found that it was full to the brim, showing over six inches of recent rain.  I emptied it and I hope that it will take some time before it is filled up again.

The flying bird of the day is an expansive siskin.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She felt that as I had been a bit lacking of flying birds recently, she should help me out.  She visited RSPB West Sedgmoor on Saturday and saw a great many teal.

RSPB West Sedgemoor teal

My first picture of the day was taken very early in the morning indeed.  As I went to bed last night,  I was surprised to see that the moon was out and although it was lightly covered by a very thin cloud, I thought that I should celebrate being able to see it at all in the midst of our bad weather. This was six minutes after midnight.

full moon February

When I woke up this morning, the day was remarkably peaceful and dry.  After breakfast I got a call from fellow archivist Nancy to say that one of our microfiche readers wasn’t working and I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre without getting wet.

The Wauchope was unrecognisable from the river that we had seen on our way to church just a day ago and Mr Grumpy had found a quiet pool to stand in behind a bush.

calm after storm

After some head scratching and with a bit of a “let’s try that” technique, we got the reader to read again and I left Nancy to her work and walked home.  In spite of the improved weather conditions, the continuing brisk wind made me grateful for the warmth of my new coat.

In the garden I found the (small) host of daffodils had survived, a starling was doing some supervision…

in the garden after storm

…a first flower had appeared on the winter honeysuckle and Mary Jo’s rain gauge showed that quite a bit of rain had fallen.

The wind was no discouragement to the birds today though and enough goldfinches arrived to start a fight…

squabbling goldfinches

…though experience has led me to believe that sometimes two goldfinches are all you need to have a scrap.

Peace did break out and we got a collection of siskins and goldfinches that swapped places from time to time.

two triples on the feeder

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business and shopping  and I made some lentil soup for lunch.

Fortified by the soup, eaten with bread and cheese, we drove down to Canonbie to have a walk.  There were spots of rain as we drove down but luckily, the rain stopped when we got to the Byreburn Woods, and so we started our walk.

Our plan was to keep among the trees for as much of our walk as possible because the wind was very cold and the excellent path took us along in the shelter of some very tall conifers.

Byreburn Wood walk 1

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal giving a sense of scale.

Byreburn Wood walk 2

When we came out of the trees, some well constructed steps took us the steepest part of the hill….

Byreburn Wood walk 3

…and a handy bench provided us with a resting place at the top.

Byreburn Wood walk 4

The path is part of the Council’s Core Path Network and is well signposted and well maintained.

As we got to the most exposed part of the walk, there was a hint of sunshine…

Byreburn Wood walk 5

…which was fully realised as we came out of the wood and walked down the road…

Going down to Byre Burn

…to the modest bridge over the Byre Burn.

bridge at top of Byre Burn

We crossed the bridge and took the track which goes back down the hill alongside the Byre Burn itself.

fairy loup track

Here we spotted the only fungus we saw all walk…

fungus fairy loup track

…enjoyed the glowing moss on the bank above the track being picked out by the sun…

moss in sun fairy loup track

…and listened to the music of the burn…

cascade fairy loup track

…as it chattered over the little cascades on its way to the Fairy Loup and the River Esk.

cascade fairy loup track 2

We had to stop to take the obligatory picture of the Fairy Loup when we came to it, although the view would be greatly improved if someone would come along and trim the trees in front of it.

fairy loup february

When we got to the road at the bottom of the track,  we crossed this much more impressive bridge.  It carries the road which used to be the main Carlisle to Edinburgh trunk route.

Byreburn bridge A7

We had done two miles by the time that we got back to the car.  Although this was not a long walk, it had had a lot of variety on the way which had made it most rewarding.

When we got back to Langholm on our way home, it was obvious  that it had been raining in the town while we had been away.  This greatly added to the pleasure that we felt from our walk through the woods.

In the garden, there were signs of things to come.

crocus and hellebore promise

Mike Tinker’s tea radar was finely honed and he arrived just as the teapot was put on the table and we a good chat.  The Langholm Walks Group is planning to add a route from Canonbie to Langholm to its collection of waymarked walks and he told us that one section of this will go through the Byreburn Wood.

In the evening, my friend Luke came round with his flute and we had a go at a Quantz sonata.  We haven’t played it for some time and although we played a couple of movements, it was clear that we will need to practise a bit harder if it is to go smoothly.

Storm Ciara has treated us very lightly considering what happened not far from us.  There were damaging floods in Hawick and Appleby, Carlisle had floods again and the west coast main line railway was closed because of floods.  Meanwhile, I have been able to get out for a walk every day even if it has been too windy to cycle so I can’t complain.

This may change though, as the forecast for the week ahead is very uninviting and next weekend is due to bring us another very deep Atlantic depression.  The Norwegian forecast for our area is once again slightly better than the BBC’s so I think we will settle for the Norwegian arrangement and keep our fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably looking for a fight.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my South African correspondent, Langholm exile Tom.  He was looking for something to send me from his archives and found this lofty view of Worcester in the Western Cape, taken from 6000 ft up.

view of Worcester SA

We had a calm day before the advertised arrival late tomorrow of storm Ciara, which the experts think might be the worst storm to hit the country since 2013.  We are not looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I had an enjoyable day today.  In the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do useful things around the town and I entertained Dropscone to coffee and ate two of his excellent treacle scones.  A Friday wouldn’t be the same without treacle scones.

When he left, I had a look to see if there were any birds at our feeder and found remarkably few.

A chaffinch was weighing up its options…

chaffinch on stalk

…and a sparrow was complaining about Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree..,.

sparrow shouting

…while a rook posed at the very top of the walnut.

rook on walnut tree top

Mrs Tootlepedal has put up the robin nest box and we are waiting to see if the robin also knows that it is a nest box.

new robin box

As there were no birds to watch, and it was still a bit cold for cycling (it had been freezing when we woke up), I went for a walk.

A little bit of  hair ice showed that it had been cold…

new hir ice

…and it certainly looked like winter as I walked along the beechy plains…

winter on the beechy plains

…but the sun was out and when I got into the open, it was very pleasant.

The battery had run out on my camera so I used my phone to take a few pictures as I went along.  I was delighted by how well it picked out these catkins.

sunny catkins murtholm

I took a view of Warbla just so that I would have something bright to remind me of better days when the storm comes.

view of warbla before storm

I crossed Skippers Bridge….

distillery on arthur's leaving day

…and walked home along the river.  The daisies on the bank still had something to show…

diasies by esk

…but there was not much else to look at today.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to buy seed potatoes and I went for a cycle ride.  All traces of the morning frost had gone and the wind wasn’t too unkind so I added a few more miles to my last outing and pedalled the twenty miles it takes to get round my familiar Canonbie circuit.

Two fine fungi beside the Wauchope road caught my eye…

fungus wauchope road

…and I liked the view of the lake District hills on the far side of the Solway Firth.

view of skiddaw

There were some clouds about…

cloudscape

…but they conveniently cleared away by the time that I got to Canonbie, where the church was looking at its best.

canonbie church

Beside the church, a row of pylons reminded me of how much work there will be to do before all our pylons are upgraded.  It is a major task as we live on a electricity highway from Carlisle to the north..

pylons at canonbie

Work is going full steam ahead on the new Canonbie sewage system.  There were people hard at work in the village, with another group digging a trench in the old road past the school, and then more workers at this site in the field below the Byreburn Wood.

The incontinent of Canonbie will be well catered for when all this is finished.

new sewage works canonbie

The low sun picked out the new balcony round the top of Hollows Tower.  I had a chance to go out on it when we visited the tower last year but it was too alarming for me.

hollows tower

My final picture was a peer through the branches at Irvine House, still standing empty after many years.

irvine house

I got home in good order, very pleased to find that I can bicycle normally again although I am still taking care and not going down the hills too fast.

Looking around the garden, I saw that we now have four daffodils.  When we get another one out, we will declare that the clump is an official host of golden daffodils and start writing poetry.

four daffodils

There hadn’t been quite enough warmth in the day to persuade the crocuses to open.

crocuses

Following a report of a male hen harrier sighting on the moor, Mrs Tootlepedal had driven up to have a look after her potato expedition, but she had not seen anything.  She consoled herself with a cup of tea and a bite of my chocolate eclair.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round, and Alison and I played duets while the other two chatted.   We had a go at a sonata which we haven’t played for several years and came to the conclusion that some practice might be a good thing before we try it again.

If no post arrives tomorrow, you will know we have been blown away but in the meantime, two peacefully swimming ducks are the flying birds of the day.

two ducks

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Today’s guest picture is another Lake District study from cyclist Paul.  He visited Buttermere on a lovely autumn day a couple of years ago.  It is one of my favourite spots.

buttermere

The day here was a forecasting mixture, with the BBC having the upper hand in the morning and the Norwegians taking over in the afternoon.

So the morning was calm and not too cold.  There were very few birds about in the garden.  The robin has got the hang of using the basket to act as a launching pad to the seeds.

robin at feeder

I am not quite sure what I did in the morning but it must have been quite dull because I have forgotten all about it.  There was coffee and a crossword involved but there was something else unimportant too because I didn’t get out for a walk until nearly midday.

It turned out to be a very good morning for a walk along the river.  I was greeted with suspicion by a sparrow on the hedge as I walked down to the Meeting of the Waters….

sparrow on hedge clinthead gardens

…where the gulls obligingly flew up and down until I had had my fill of watching them.

four flying gulls

They then returned to their perches on the fence posts and I turned round to see what the noise was behind me.  It was men preparing to put in new telephone poles.

new poles bar brae

It is good to see our infrastructure being taken care of.

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and strolled along the Lodge Walks.  Looking down, I could see that the supply of beech nuts has greatly exceeded the demand for them this year.

beech nuts

I took the upper road to Holmhead.  As I went through the woods, I was serenaded by the music of little streams.

little stream longfauld

The sun came out as I walked and I was in a happy place.

road to holmhead

I daresay that this pheasant, a survivor of the recent war against birds, was quite happy too.

surviving pheasant

When I got to Holmhead, I walked up the path through the snowdrops.

snowdrops holmhead 5 feb 1

There were snowdrops to the left of me…

snowdrops holmhead 5 feb 2

…and snowdrops to the right of me.

snowdrops holmhead 5 feb 3

They are not quite fully out yet and if I get a sunny day next week, I will come to see them again.  They are early this year.

When I had left the snowdrops behind, I went as far as the North Lodge where I admired the view up the valley….

view from north lodge

…and then turned for home.

The sun hadn’t lasted long but it was still a pleasant day for a walk.  My enjoyment was boosted when I met a man who had come to Langholm from Gretna.  He told me that he had had to drive through very thick fog which had only cleared just as he reached the town.  I felt lucky that the Norwegian influence hadn’t quite got to Langholm.

I had wondered if the early snowdrops would mean early hazel flowers too, so I walked back along the riverside towards the Jubilee Bridge and peered at catkins.  With the greatest difficulty, I saw a speck of red and the faithful Lumix was able to translate this into an actual tiny flower for me.  The camera has better eyesight than I have.

hazel flower

Like the snowdrops, this wasn’t fully out yet so I will have to come back and have another look later on.

A passer by told me that the heron was waiting for me on the river bank so I passed the Jubilee Bridge by and walked down to the Meeting of the Waters.  The passer by was right.

I was happy to see Mr Grumpy…

heron behind fence

…but he wasn’t so happy to see me and flew off…

heron taking off

…leaving a gull on a fence post to keep me company.

gull on post

I went back to the Jubilee Bridge and crossed it on my way home, noting the the monument wasn’t pointing to anything today as it had its head in the clouds.

monument in mist

I was greeted by a jackdaw when I got back.

jackdaw staring

After a quick lunch of cheese sandwiches, I left Mrs Tootlepedal to do some business in the town and went out on my bicycle.

After the success of my short outing on the slow bike yesterday, I took my fairly speedy bike out today.  I had been quite warm in a light jacket on my walk so I dressed accordingly for my cycle ride.  It didn’t take me long to find that the Norwegian weather had arrived and I had to cycle into a thin and chilly wind under a heavily clouded sky while being slight underdressed for the occasion.

I pursued a policy of going slowly and carefully but still managed to go a bit further and a bit faster than yesterday without falling off.  I stopped on the top of Callister to see if there were any signs of the new wind turbines yet.  There were none but I did enjoy some very artistic tractor marks in the field opposite.  When you look at the central motif again, you realise that it took quite a bit of skill to make the pattern.

artistic tractor marks callister

I arrived home after 15 miles in perfect time to put the kettle on for Mike Tinker who was just walking round to our house in the hope of a cup of tea.  We were joined by Mrs Tootlepedal when she had finished her business, and we enjoyed some tasty oatcakes with our cuppas.

The weather is much on our minds at the moment with storms about.  We missed the one last weekend but it looks as though we are all going to get caught by an even worse one next weekend.  It has been good to have a few nice days for walks and cycle rides and Mrs Tootlepedal put up a robin nesting box today.  If the robin finds it in time, it will have somewhere to shelter from the rain and wind.

In the meantime, Mr Grumpy stars as the flying bird of the day.

heron flying with head

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Today’s guest post is another from Joyce’s Bermuda collection.  As well as glorious beaches she visited the zoo at Flatt Island where she found this lovely lemur.

ring tailedlemur flatts village aquarium

When we woke up, we were very pleased to find the Norwegian weather forecast had been reliable and we had a second sunny day in succession.  What was even more satisfactory was that there was no sign of the strong winds with which we had been threatened so it was as good a day as one could reasonably expect in early February.

We had to wait in for the gas man to come and service our boiler so I had time to admire the smash and grab technique of the robin…

smash and grab robin

…and cycle to the corner shop, passing an oyster catcher on the way.

oyster catcher on gravel

When I got home again, there were starlings on every side.

There was one on top of Irving’s holly tree and one  on top of the walnut tree …

starling on walnut and holly

…and when I went round the back of the house to investigate loud twittering, I found many more starlings in a bush at the back of Henry Street. (There were noisy sparrows in there too.)

starlings back henry street

While the gas boiler inspection was going on, I walked round the garden.

The crocuses had opened to greet the sunshine…

first open crocus

…and there were signs of life all over the place.

wallflower, euphorbia, crocus, magnolia

In defence of the often criticised service industries, I have to report that the gas engineer came on time, did the job cheerfully and quickly, and went on his way with a smile.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning at the computer on the proposed community land purchase business and she had more to do after lunch.  While she slaved away, I took the opportunity to test my cycling head to see if there was any dizziness still in it.

I got the slow bike out because it has wide handlebars for a steadier grip and it doesn’t have toe clips on the pedals so if I needed to stop quickly, I could put my foot down immediately.  I cycled at a very sensible pace so that I wouldn’t put pressure on my breathing. As a result, I enjoyed the outing.

It was still a lovely day…

field near Bloch

…and I stopped after three miles for a little rest and a chance to view a favourite cascade on the Wauchope Water.

I took a bird’s eye view from above…

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from above

…and a trout’s eye view from below.

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from below

I turned up the Cleuchfoot road and followed the Logan Water for a mile.

Logan Water

I looked politely at the lichen on the wall when I parked my bike for that photo.

wall lichen

In the end, I managed ten miles in just over an hour and got home without having to stop for a dizzy spell.  This was most satisfactory and if the weather stays friendly, I will try to go a little further tomorrow.

Mrs Tootlepedal had finished her work by the time that I got back, and she kindly agreed to forgo a gardening opportunity and come for a walk with me instead.

We went along the Lamb Hill….

Lamb Hill tree

…and on to the road to Newcastleton.

There is a gap in the trees there which gives a fine view up the Ewes valley.  I like the way that the hills meet each other on the diagonal just as a child might draw hills in a colouring book..

view from Copshaw road

We walked up the road and then took the path across the lower slopes of Whita which leads to Whita Well.   We couldn’t see much ahead of us as we were walking straight into the sun but when we stopped and looked back, we were well rewarded for our little climb.

ewes valley from Whita

After a soggy start, the path across the hill became very acceptable.

grass path on Whita

Above us, we could see the monument pointing out where to look to find the moon.

monument and point

When we got to Whita Well, we came to the bench which kind people have put there for the convenience of elderly walkers who are in need of a sit down.

We sat down.

bench at whita well

We were well sheltered from the light breeze, and it was a great treat after so many damp and gloomy days to sit in the sun and take in the rays.

As we walked back down to the town, we passed a good show of gorse, though it wasn’t warm enough to generate the coconut scent that gorse has in summer.

gorse at whita well

We also passed this sign at the top of the golf course.

helicopter warning sign

It was laid flat on the ground though as the helicopter wasn’t flying today.

We got home after two and a half miles of quite hard work and were very happy to have a sit down, a cup of tea, and several slices of fruity malt loaf which doubtless more than made up for any calories we might have expended while going up the hill.

Although the atmospheric pressure is due to stay high tomorrow, we might find ourselves in some misty conditions and the temperature might be low enough for a morning frost.  Looking at the BBC weather forecast for the temperature in the afternoon, I find it is two degrees better than the Norwegian offering, so I will opt for the BBC this time.

The slow cooked lamb stew made a third and final appearance for tea, this time in the guise of a light curry with rice.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

A literal footnote:  Sandy has sent me a message to say that his operation has gone well.  Thank you for the kind wishes that you expressed.

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew’s walk at Ashbourne.  When he had crossed that narrow bridge featured as guest picture a couple of days ago, he found that an earlier landowner had dammed the little river and produced a big lake.

ashbourne lake

We had a surprise today when we woke up.  We found that it wasn’t raining.  Indeed, it was the first time that we could really appreciate how far the year has moved on since the winter solstice as it was already a bright day at breakfast.

The day was made brighter still by an early appearance from the robin.  It popped up, took a seed, went off to eat it, had a look round and came back for another.

four robin panel

I went out with my camera just to prove that the sun was out in case it disappeared and didn’t come back again.  The forecast had been terrible so the good day was a surprise.

I took a look at the garden from the road outside…

sunny morning

…and enjoyed the sun shining on the moss on the back path when I went back into the garden..

mossy path

It has been so damp in recent years that the garden is gradually sinking under the weight of the moss.

I went back indoors and spent a little time watching the birds.  Goldfinches and chaffinches got in early before the siskins took over.

full feeder

But it didn’t take many siskins before a chaffinch had second thoughts  about flying in.

chaffinch thinking better of it

And when one was brave enough to come close..

chaffinch approaching siskin

…it got a warm welcome…

siskin rebuffinh chaffinch

…and went away again.

The day got brighter still when Sandy appeared for coffee.  He is going off for an operation on his foot tomorrow, so this will be his last visit for some time.  The operation should be quite quick but the recovery will not be.  I will have to stir my stumps and go and have coffee with him as he sits with his foot up.

When Sandy left, it was such a nice day that Mrs Tootlepedal was tempted out to do some gardening and I went with her.

The first task was to put the Christmas tree back in its bed.  It had been sitting in a pot at the back door until a dry day came but seems to have taken no hurt.

christmas Feb 2020

The snow drops were enjoying the sunshine too.

snowdrops in flower

I got so excited that I sieved some compost…

compost in barow

…while Mrs Tootlepedal cut back a dogwood.

dogwood pruning

I shredded the prunings and added them to the compost bin.

Then I dug up a leek and made some soup with it for lunch.

leek ready fr soup

While the soup was cooking, I went back out and noted a tree peony and some tulips reminding us that spring will come.

tree peony and crocus

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal had some work connected to the possible community land purchase to do (it is a very complicated matter) so I did the crossword and put a fruity malt loaf into the breadmaker.

When Mrs Tootlepedal had finished her work, we went for a walk.  There had been a terrific shower of rain while she was working but it had passed, and the day was once again inviting us to go outside.

I chose a route which I hoped would give us sightings of interesting birds and I was pleased to see my first posing oyster catcher since last July standing on a rock in the Esk…

oyster catcher and goosander

…and the first goosander since Christmas swimming in the Ewes.

There was a good sighting of the white duck at the Kilngreen which I couldn’t miss  but I didn’t see the most interesting bird of the day, a tree creeper on the Castleholm, at all.

tree creeper and duck

You can see it in the panel above.  Mrs Tootlepedal, who had just been lamenting not seeing any tree creepers for a while, spotted the bird and pointed it out to me.  I couldn’t make it out, however hard I looked.  Luckily, I pointed my camera in hope in the general direction that  Mrs Tootlepedal was pointing, and it did the seeing for me.

It was a short walk but we were both delighted to be out in the sunshine.  I loved the low winter sun catching the moss on the wall beside the estate offices…

moss on wall

…and it picked out the mossy branches on this tree too.

castleholm tree

Talking of moss, Mrs Tootlepedal was rather taken by the very neat division between moss and lichen on this tree further along the path.

tree with moss and fungus

On a nice day, there is always something to look at on a tree or a branch on the ground.

lichen and buds

Although we peered up into a lot of other trees…

treescape

…we didn’t see another interesting bird.

We had a cup of tea when we got home and not long afterwards, my friend Luke appeared and we played a trio sonata by Godfrey Finger, with the computer and my Roland keyboard providing the accompaniment.  The sonata is really for two oboes but it suits us very well on our flutes.  We would like to have a real, live pianist but they are hard to find these days.

After Luke left, the slow cooked lamb stew provided another meal and we followed that with a slice of the freshly made fruity malt loaf.

The BBC weather forecast on the TV for tomorrow has been full of foreboding, talking of gales and even snow in the offing.  The Norwegian weather forecast for our area is much more benign and offers another day of sunshine with brisk but not silly winds, so unlike the keen Brexiteers, I am hoping to take the Norwegian option tomorrow.

A hopeful chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

Footnote:  Alert readers will have noted that I haven’t mentioned being dizzy today.  This is because I wasn’t dizzy.  I didn’t mention a sore foot either for the same reason.  If this goes on, I will have nothing to complain about and may even be back on my bike again.

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