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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She is visiting the Netherlands for singing purposes, and saw this fine selection of bridges crossing the river Waal at Nijmegen through the tinted windows of her coach.  The Waal is a distributary* of the Rhine.

Nijmegan bridges

We had a fine day here today.  Indeed, we are promised a week of fine weather.  This will be very welcome after our recent very changeable conditions.  The temperature is due to rise steadily until Sunday when it will start to rain again.

A bit of warmth will be very welcome as it was definitely felt autumnal as I cycled about the town on various errands after breakfast.   I almost felt as though I should have been wearing gloves. However, it soon warmed up and Mrs Tootlepedal was recovered enough from her cold to have a wander round the garden and do some light work.

I did some dead heading and clearing up of fallen plums and, of course, looked around as I did so.

After a very slow start, the fuchsias in the garden are beginning to make a better effort…

garden fuchsia

…and together with the second flowering of the red astrantia….

red astrantia

…they are bringing some late colour to the garden.

An Icelandic poppy and a cosmos were doing a grand job of providing for insects.

insects on flowers

The most striking thing about the garden though was not the flowers, but the butterflies on them.  There were red admirals…

red admiral butterfly

on buddleia and sedum…

red admiral butterfly on sedum

…and peacocks on both blue…

peacock butterfly

…and red buddleia.

peacock butterfly on buddleia

They were joined by the usual collection of white butterflies too.

white butterfly

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a very curious white butterfly with odd yellow wings fluttering about.  It was so unusual that we tracked it carefully as it flitted from plant to plant.  Finally, it rested long enough to be caught on camera and it turned out to be not one butterfly but two butterflies engaged in the business of producing more butterflies.

white butterflies mating

We politely left them to it and went off to a admire a lone small tortoiseshell completing our butterfly collection for the day.

small tortoiseshell butterfly

I went back indoors and spent some time getting things ready for the first camera club meeting of the season, testing the projector and making sure that the laptop that we use wasn’t suddenly going to demand an update at an inconvenient time.

After lunch,  I was finally ready to go for a cycle ride.  The wind was supposed to be quite light but turned out to be quite brisk and gusty at times so I had a battle over the first eleven miles to get to the top of a hill on this little used road at Kennedy’s Corner.

Kennedy's Corner

From then on though, it was almost all downhill with good views over the Solway to the Lake District Hills 25 miles to the south

view of solway from Kennedy's corner road

…and looking back I could see Burnswark Hill just behind me where forts have guarded the route north from iron age and then Roman  times.

view of Burnswark from Kennedy's corner road

To the west, I could just make out Criffel on the far bank of the Nith Estuary, 20 miles away.

view of vriffel from Kennedy's corner road

It is an airy spot and I enjoyed the swoop down the hill to Chapelknowe, with the now helpful wind giving me an extra push.

Some time ago, I had been sent a guest picture of some Korean pine cones at Half Morton church and I remembered to have a look for them as I passed the churchyard today.  There are none so blind as those who will not see and I was quite impressed that I had managed to cycle within a few yards of these wonderful trees…

korean pine tree Half Morton

… many, many times without ever noticing them especially or the astonishing crop of cones right under my nose.

korean pine cones

The fact that the church lies at the top of a small hill and I am always slightly puffed when I get there might explain it.

While I was there today, I also noted the the stone steps laid into the wall which enabled people to approach the church without opening the gate and letting the minister’s sheep, which grazed the grave yard,  out onto the road.

half morton church wall

I stopped for a drink of water just before the final little hill on my route and can tell you that there is a stone wall under this jungle of ferns.

ferny wall

I got home after 27 miles in time to have a cup of tea and a slice of bead with plum jam followed by a shower, before my flute pupil Luke arrived.   Our hard work on improving our breathing is beginning to pay off and we are progressing steadily.

When Luke left, I enjoyed an excellent evening meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal and then went off to set up for the camera club meeting.

We had rather a thin attendance and I would have been disappointed except for the fact that the members who came produced such an interesting selection of images that the meeting was thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile.

The meeting was short though and we didn’t need a half time break for tea and biscuits.  This left me with an unopened packet of bourbon biscuits and a temptation….into which I have happily fallen while writing this post.  I don’t know how many calories my cycle ride used up but I am perfectly sure that they have all been replaced now.

The flying bird(s) of the day are a small bunch of swallows.  They were sitting on a wire as I passed on my bicycle and I stopped, meaning to take picture showing swallows getting ready to depart when they suddenly departed.

swallows disturbed

* A distributary is a river which, instead of joining like a tributary, has split from the main river as it enters the delta at an estuary.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin.  He and his wife Gaye (pictured beside the train) spent 18 hours on this train from Salt Lake City to San Francisco.  He tells me that route took them through the Utah Salt Desert, Nevada Desert, and then finally the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was spectacular but the accommodation and food on the train left a bit to be desired. He thinks Gaye was delighted that the journey was finally over.

zephyr train

I spent a very quiet day today, partly because my legs were not in the mood to be co-operative and mainly because the wind blew vigorously and relentlessly all day so it wasn’t an attractive cycling day.

The morning was given over to late rising, a crossword, coffee and a little light mowing of the greenhouse grass.  I wandered about dead heading and looking at flowers.  The poppies continue to surprise me with their tenacity…

four red poppies

…and here and there, bright colours stand out…

four flowers

…though I had to hold the rose’s head up with my hand to get the picture of it.

I found a break in the wind to capture gentian, crocosmia and perennial wallflower.

three flowers

And there were insects about too, although the butterflies were very scarce.

insects on two flowers

The rowan berries are getting very scarce too….

few berries on rowan

…and jackdaws decided that plums were a better bet.

jackdaw on plums

I dug up a couple of leeks and made some leek and potato soup for my lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her monthly Embroiderers Guild meeting and I did a little shopping.  Among the things that I acquired was a pan suitable for making tarte tatin.  My first effort a couple of days ago had no been very successful and not having a suitable pan had not helped.  We have got a good lot of apples about to ripen so I thought that I ought to have another go.

The new pan made things a lot easier but I still slightly overcooked the caramel sauce…

tarte tatin 2nd effort

…and I need to improve my apple packing skills but once again, it didn’t taste too bad and things can only get better with experience.

While the tarte was cooking, I mowed the front lawn and edged both it and the middle lawn.  A neat edge always makes a lawn look better.

When the tarte had come out of the oven, I left Mrs Tootlepedal to recover from her meeting, which had gone very well, and set off to shake a little of the cussedness out of my legs with a two mile walk.  In spite of the strong wind, it was fairly warm and I didn’t need a coat or an umbrella.

I took a familiar route along the track to the Becks Burn and back by the Wauchope road and I passed plenty of fruit and seeds along the way.

becks fruits

Crab apples, unknown seed head , elderberries and rose hips

The rose hips on the hedge roses have really come into their own at the moment and there were flashes of red all along my walk.

These cones and seed heads were near the end of my walk.

cones and seeds

There were some flowers along the way too.

becks flowers

I kept an eye out for fungus but the only example that I saw was this good spread on top of a tree trunk.  I think that these are turkey tails.

becks turkey tails

When I got to the track down to the Becks Burn itself, I was very impressed by this sea of grass, tossing in the breeze.

lush grass becks

By the time that I had crossed the burn and walked up the slope on the far side, the sun had come out so I turned and looked back at the track that I had walked down on the far side of the little valley.

becks track view

And I took a panorama of the bigger picture…

Becks wood view

…which will expand if you click on it.

In the course of my walk, I photographed two gates, one near the beginning in dull light…

becks gate

…and one near the end when the sun was out.

springholm gate

I ended my walk by looking to see if there were any slow worms in their favourite spot at Pool Corner.

There were.

slow worm

And as my sister Susan, likes fuchsias, I took this picture of a really fine specimen just as I came back into the town.

lush fuchsia

I turned the tarte tatin out of the tatin pan when I got back and we had it as pudding after our evening meal.

Even though I hadn’t cycled myself, we were able to watch the highlights of great men cycling furiously in exciting stages of both the Vuelta and the tour of Britain to end my day.  It was quite exhausting just watching their efforts.

The flying bird of the day is a composite of a jackdaw that flapped across the garden in a relaxed way.

flying jackdaw

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Today”s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  Looking through my files I see that I didn’t use this one from his highland holiday earlier in the year.  I thought that it should have gone in then so I have put it in now. It shows keen canoeists in Plockton.

oznor

We had a pleasant and mostly sunny day and it was filled with interesting things to do.  Fortunately they came at a leisurely pace and well spread out.

I started the day with a conversation with a neighbour over the garden fence.  As we chatted, blackbirds flew into the rowan tree and munched away on the berries, quite unconcerned about our presence.

blackbird in rowan

After we finished our conversation, I went in and got my other camera out and spent some time recording blackbirds wondering where the berries had gone, checking out the berries that were there…

birds berry

…and then eating them.   It will not be long until they are all gone.

Our neighbour has a rowan with yellow berries and he pointed out that they  have not been touched yet.  I wonder if the birds just don’t think that they are ripe.  Maybe they are not so tasty.

Then it was time for coffee and excellent treacle scones with Dropscone.  He has been busy playing golf and visiting his new granddaughter so I hadn’t seen him for some time.  It was good to catch up with his news.

When he left, I wandered round the garden doing some dead heading and looking at flowers, both individually…

four single flowers

There was plenty of evidence of yesterday’s rain

…and in clumps.

four flower bunches

Then, thinking that I had better do something useful while Mrs Tootlepedal was busy at a meeting, I trimmed one of the garden hedges and the hedge along the road.

clipped hedge

This should be the last time this year that the hedges need trimming I hope.

On my way back inside, I noticed that a nerine had come out…

nerine

…and I watched a sparrow watching a passing insect.

sparrow on stalk

I don’t know if anyone was watching me.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her meeting and we had a light lunch.

After lunch, I got my bike out and pedalled quietly round my customary 20 mile Canonbie circuit.  Yesterday’s visit to the physiotherapist confirmed previous advice that I shouldn’t cycle up steep hills so I shall continue to pedal along tried and trusted familiar  flattish routes.  This means that cycling photos will continue to be on the dull side.

I was pleased to finally get a reasonably sharp photo of some clover today.  I have been trying and failing all summer so it was only right that the clover should be going over when I finally caught it.

old clover

Looking over the Hollows Bridge, there was just the faintest suggestion that leaves are beginning to turn.

hollows esk

Following a previous picture of beech nuts, I took two more shots of beech trees, one on each side of the bridge at the Hollows just to show that almost all our beech trees are heavily laden this year.

beech nuts hollows

I have passed the laughing poodle tree many times this year on my bike rides so I thought that I might record it once again as it always amuses me as I see it.

poodle tree

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal relaxing after some hard gardening while I had been out.

I had a quick butterfly hunt after I had had a cup of tea and was pleased to find three different kinds on the go, red admiral, painted lady and peacock.  I had hoped for a small tortoiseshell as well but had to make up the panel with a plain fly on the sedum.

three butterflies and a fly

Crown Princess Margareta has flowered but she has turned her back on her public and I had to wade into the border to get this shot.

crown princess margareta rose sept

I went in and had a shower, and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal was cooking our evening meal, I went out for a short walk.  The physiotherapist has said that I should walk as much as I can.

Some dog tooth peltigera lichen appeared on a wall shortly after I set out…

peltigera lichen

…and my next stop was to look at the bridge over the Becks Burn.

becks brodge

I stopped again at the Auld Stane Brig, the next bridge along, to admire a small garden on the bridge parapet and a lichen jungle on the fence post at the end of the bridge.

auld stane brisge flower and lichen

I walked back to the town along Gaskells Walk.  There were plenty of fine ferns to admire as I walked along.  I looked at the front of some…

fern gaskells

…and the back of others.  This is a buckler fern.

fern spores gaskells

There were fruits as well as ferns.

three fruits gaskells

I finished by walking along the path beside the park wall.  I was hoping for more lichen but it hasn’t developed yet or I wasn’t paying enough attention.

park wall sept

I will look again soon.

The day was rounded off by a visit from Mike and Alison and Alison and I played old and new favourites including Telemann, Vivaldi, Marcello and Finger while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike once again set the world to rights.  We may have to check on their methods as things have not improved much as I hoped since they set the world to rights last week.

Among the many blackbirds visiting the ‘birdberry’ tree was this one, who just managed to qualify as the flying bird of the day.

flying blackbird

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Today’s guest picture comes from Camera Club member Simon who was at work in Winson in Germany when he found himself being observed.

simons caterpillar

After a rather wild and wet night while Storm Dorian had its last faint fling over Scotland, we had a generally dry and occasionally sunny day today so we got off pretty lightly.

It was still breezy but that didn’t discourage the birds and the garden was fully occupied by feathered friends all day.

When I went out to have a look around in the morning, I spotted this little dunnock looking askance at a blackbird which was stretching its wings in a flowerbed.

dunnock and blackbird

As well as birds, there was a considerable number of red admiral butterflies about too, and I found one on Michaelmas daisy.  I got too close to it though and it flew off, leaving a bee to enjoy some peace and quiet.

butterfly and bee on daisy

I stood for some time watching stream of blackbirds and some starlings feeding on the rowan berries.

Unlike Mrs Tootlepedal who has picked all the low hanging fruit from the plum tree…

plums in bowl

…the birds have eaten all the topmost berries from the rowan and are now having to look at lower fruit, often on the end of branches.

stretching for a berry

I was surprised to see how often the birds dropped a berry before being able to swallow it, but all the same, a lot of berries went down a lot of throats today.

A starling posed for me…

blackbird and rown berry

…and any number of blackbirds were too busy eating to mind me pointing a cameras at them.

four berry and blackbird panel

Sometimes when they had pecked a berry off the very end of the branch, gravity was too much for them and they had to fly off with the berry or risk being pushed off by the  next customer.

three blackbirds on rowan

Underneath the rowan tree, a snowberry was a haven of peace for a visiting insect.

snowberry

In the garden, many flowers had survived the night of wind and rain.  Mrs Tootlepedal wishes to point out that all the sunflowers in the shot below came from the same packet of seeds, advertised as short sunflowers.  Quality control at the seed merchants looks a bit lax.

contrasting sunflowers

The Japanese anemones are not discouraged by anything.

japanese anemones bunch

In the middle of the day, I made some plum jam with some of the plums that we have picked.  A number of things conspired to make the result unsatisfactory.  The plums were too ripe, it has been raining a lot recently, I didn’t have proper jam sugar, and I was probably too impatient.  As a result, the jam didn’t set properly and I had to give it a squoosh of lemon juice and a second boil later in the day.  Mrs Tootlepedal stewed a lot of the rest of the plums.  They will be frozen.   There may well be more chutney in the offing too.

In the afternoon, I got my bike out, and after having another look at blackbirds in the rowan tree…

shady blackbird in rowan

… I went for a short ride.  There was evidence of the recent rain.

water running on Wauchope road

We had a very good dry spell earlier in the year but the persistent rain has finally got things soggy again and the water is running off the hills and onto the roads in several places.

A cow kept an eye on me as I photographed the puddles.

cow spectator

The forecast was for a gusty wind.  Usually round here it is hard to tell if the wind is gusty because it just blows all the time, but today it really was gusty.  One minute I would be pedalling along merrily, whistling a happy tune, and the next minute I would have my head down, battling to make any progress at all.

Still, I got to the top of Callister and back and stopped as I pedalled through the town to salute our lonely gull on its regular rock.

gull on rock

Although it was not in flood, there was enough water coming down the Esk to create a fine back ripple.

big ripples in Esk

As I crossed the Langholm Bridge, I could see that the cormorant was back at the Meeting of the Waters, so I parked my bike at the Kilngreen and walked along to get a closer look.  It was drying its wings.

cormorant at meeting of the waters

I looked up from watching the cormorant and enjoyed the view of the hills.  The mixture of blue skies and heavy clouds summed up the day.

view of timpen and esk

I only got rained on for a very short time during the ride and got home after 15 miles in good order.  I had enough energy left to mow the middle lawn.  For the first time for a few months, I thought that the rate of growth in the grass had slowed down.  It has stayed quite warm recently, around 15°C most days, but the shorter days are getting noticeable now.  We are only ten days away from the autumn equinox and facts are facts.

As the flowers and leaves are showing.

creeper and sedum

The starlings were lined up on the electricity wire as I went in to have my evening meal.

starlings on wire

As well as plums, we are beginning to get quite a lot of apples from our espalier trees.  I have been picking up the windfalls and we decided to take a step into the unknown and convert some of them into a Tarte Tatin.  We were handicapped by not having a suitable pan for the job but we battled on and the result was good enough to eat even if it definitely would not have won even second prize in a beauty pageant.  I am going to try again soon.

As the blackbirds had taken my advice to try to pick berries from above their heads rather than below their feet, there was no shortage of flying birds today so here is the genuine flying bird of the day.

flying blackbird

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin who was in California recently seeing his son and grandchildren when he visited the Capitola Pier.

capitola pier

We had another grey morning here with the occasional threat of drizzle which didn’t come to much.  It was enough though to persuade me that coffee and a tricky  crossword and some light shopping at our corner shop could fill up the time satisfactorily.   The wind was light and I ought to have been out making the most of a reasonable cycling day but I didn’t feel guilty enough to do more than walk round the garden.

I was hoping to see blackbirds in the rowan tree again but they were too quick for me today and flew off as soon as they saw me coming.

I looked at a shy dahlia instead.

shy dahlia

The last of the poppies are far from shy.

deep red poppies

And once again, the red admirals were about.  This one was resting on a sedum…

red admiral butterfly on sedum

…and this one on a buddleia was showing off its goggle eyes and its antennae.  The antennae look as though they have LEDs on them.

red admiral butterfly close up

At noon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and I finally got organised and took my bike out for a pedal.

We are being threatened with the arrival of the last gasp of Storm Dorian but the rain isn’t due until the evening and although the wind was expected to speed up during the afternoon, it was still going to be pretty reasonable.  I planned a route which would take advantage of the strengthening wind to blow me back home.

These things don’t often work out well but today everything went to plan.  I cycled westwards into a gentle breeze as the sun came out.  On one of my refreshment pauses, I looked up to see a hefty crop of beech nuts on the branches above me.

beech mast

My turning point came after 20 miles when I arrived at Browhouses on the Solway coast.  I took a few minutes to eat half a banana and enjoy the views.

The tide was well out and although there were some sea birds about, they were well out of range of my cycling camera.

seas birds at browhouses

A group of swans and some of a large group of gulls with some oyster catchers behind them.

Looking westward, I could see the English shore across the shining levels of the Solway…

shining solway

 

…and looking eastwards, I could see the estuary of the River Esk rather than any sea.

esk estuary browhouses

In the distance, I could see the wind turbines at Gretna…

gretna windmills

..and at Longtown and unlike my last ride, this time the direction of the blades showed me that I would get my wish of windy support on my ride home.

longtown windmills

I noticed that one of the few wild flowers to be seen was attracting attention…

yellow flower browhouses

…and then set off to do the twenty odd miles home.

I went back by a different route to my outward journey, missing out Gretna Green which I had passed through on my way out, but going through all the other places on this neatly painted signpost which is in England in the  county of Cumbria.

cubbyhill signpost

It still carries the name of a county council which was abolished in 1974, the year in which we came to live in Langholm….

cubbyhill signpost detail

…and it is good to see that no-one thought it necessary to go to the expense of making new signposts when the old ones were in such good shape.

In the hedge beside the post were some bright rose hips.

rose hips cubbyhill

At Englishtown, the farmer had been busy cutting grass and there were bales on every side as far as the eye could see.

filed near Englishtown

Thanks to the favouring breeze, which had strengthened noticeably after I had turned for home, I did the first 20 miles down to the seaside (net elevation loss 250ft) in 1 hr 33 mins and the slightly longer return 22 mile journey to Langholm (net elevation gain 250ft) in 1 hr 27 minutes.  This is the way that well planned bike rides for the elderly should always work out.  To complete the picture, I should add that I took 23 minutes of rest and refreshment stops along the way.
 A map and details of the ride can be found here by anyone interested.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a very busy day and was working hard at some business arrangements when I got home.  I left her to it and walked round the garden after I had had a cup of tea.

The ornamental strawberries are having a late burst and look very good at the moment.

tame strawberry

Crown Princess Margareta is trying her best but will need a couple of kind days if she is to come to anything.

margareta rose

And the blue clematis at the front door continues to produce small but quite elegant flowers.

front door clematis

I picked some more plums and stewed some of them and ate them as a dessert with some ice cream after our evening meal.  Garmin (which records my ride on a nifty bike computer) claims that I used 2289 calories on my ride so that should have put most of them back.

No flying bird of the day today but another of the many young blackbirds in the garden stands in for it.

young blackbird

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Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s visit to Paris.  She went to the Musee D’Orsay while she was there.  The clock is very fine, I think.

paris museum

We had another fine and dry day today but as it coincided with a two choir day, I couldn’t make much outdoor use of the good weather.  I could have made a bit more use of it than I did though, if my legs hadn’t still been mentioning yesterday’s ride from time to time.

As it was, my longest cycle ride of the day was the few hundred yards to the church in the morning.  I did the trip twice though because I had forgotten my music and had to go back for it.

I did think of a walk or a short cycle when we got back from church, but in the end I frittered away the time in drinking coffee, chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and reading yesterday’s papers.

I went out into the garden and picked and ate a few plums.  I was hoping to catch more birds eating berries, but they have unsportingly been eating them behind my back.  I looked at a few flowers instead.

The rambler rose is till showing some vigorous blooms…

rambler rose late flowers

…and nearby, Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure mustard plants are flowering freely.

mustard flower

She has planted sunflowers here and there all round the garden and on a sunny day like today, you find one smiling at you wherever you turn.

sunflower on fence

Phlox is hanging on….

[hlox

…and the red astrantia is having an excellent second flowering.

astrantia

When I went back in, I frittered away some more time in eating Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent courgette fritters for lunch and then it was the moment to jump into the car and go to Carlisle for the first meeting of the new session for the community choir there.

I was looking forward to this a lot, but it turned out to be a bit disappointing.  Our regular conductor and accompanist were not there, the acoustics in our new rehearsal venue made it hard to hear what the stand in conductor was saying and we sang a lot of songs that we have sung many times before,

We have got several new members this session, which is very good news, but owing to a failure of communication, there were not enough copies of all the music for them and as several of the new tenors can’t read music, it was hard for them to cope with shared copies when the rest of the choir new the songs very well.  However, all four of the new tenors seemed to enjoy themselves and have promised to come back which was heartening.   It was good to be back singing in a large choir again, and as always, things can only get better, so I am looking  forward to future meetings.

The nights are beginning to draw in now and there was not enough time for a late walk or pedal when we got home.  The birds had gone to bed so the flying bird of the day is a butterfly enjoying one of the last flowering spikes on the blue buddleia.

red admiral butterfly

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin.  He is visiting his son in California where he was impressed to see that every other parking space at his son’s place of work had an electric charging point..

Apple EV charging

We had an unusual day here today in that it didn’t rain at all.  People were walking round the town looking nervously at the sky and wondering what had gone wrong.

It was an early autumn sunny day though, being quite chilly in the morning and not warming up until later in the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent the whole morning manning a stall at the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre where she gave out information about the proposed community land purchase scheme.  I went along for the more mundane purpose of buying fish and meat.  I would have bought cheese and honey too, but the cheese man has stopped coming, and the honey will not be ready for another month or two.

When I got home, I prepared for a cycle ride by drinking coffee and doing the crossword until it got a bit warmer.

I went out into the garden to check the temperature and spotted not one, not two, but three butterflies, a peacock by itself, a red admiral with a small tortoiseshell, and finally all three together.

three butterfly panel

The Abyssinian gladiolus and the mallow were pleased to see the sunshine….

galdiolus and mallow

…but the pick of the flowers for me today was this cosmos.  It was very happy not to be bowed down with raindrops.

cosmos

I went back in and fuelled up on some haggis and finally got going just before midday.

For once, the wind was behind me as I cycled out of town and I had a most enjoyable time cycling through the peaceful pastoral countryside…

pastoral scene

…though the verges have been so heavily mown that there was not much in the way of wildflowers to be seen.  This ragwort was growing in a crack in the concrete on a motorway bridge.

ragwort and insect

My route took me down into England.  There are many good things about cycling on the back roads of North Cumbria; the generally excellent road surfaces, the lack of traffic and the absence of hills among them, but one of the things that I like best are the many lone pine trees that I pass along the way.

Some are tall and thin…

pine tree harker

…and others, shorter and stout.

pine tree 2 harker

After 30 miles with the wind being mostly helpful, there came the inevitable time when I had to turn into the wind to pedal home.  It wasn’t very strong so I made reasonable progress but I was happy to stop and look at the cliff beside the River Lyne where it is crossed by the Longtown road.

It is a strikingly coloured sandstone cliff, all the more surprising…

cliff cliff

…because it sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise gentle and flat  landscape

river lyne at cliff

Looking  from the bridge, I could see the Longtown windmills slowly tuning in the light breeze.  The fact that they were facing directly in the direction that I was going to have to pedal to get home was not encouraging.

longtown windmills

Still, as I say, the wind was not strong so I made steady progress.  On the longer rides, I like to stop roughly every five miles for a minute or so just to stretch and to make sure that I remember to eat and drink regularly.

My next stop after the bridge over the Lyne gave me the chance to look across the River Esk and see Netherby Hall, the site of Young Lochinvar’s daring feat.

netherby hall

On this occasion there was no “racing and chasing on Canonbie Lea” as I maintained what could charitably be described as a steady pace for the rest of my way home.  The journey was enlivened by having to listen to remarks made by  my legs on the lines of,  “Whose idea was this then?” and “Any chance of a cup of tea soon?” and “I hope you’re happy because we aren’t.”

I had to stop to talk to them severely at the bus stop at the Hollows and this let me enjoy some orange hawkweed and a hedge full of convolvulus.

hawkweed and convolvulus

I don’t know why my legs were reluctant to co-operate over the last few miles.  Perhaps the hilly walk yesterday had put them off.  Still, they got me home and 50 sunny miles had been completed so I wasn’t complaining (much).

Mrs Tootlepedal, with great forethought, was cooking a large heap of drop scones when I got in and half a dozen of these with some homemade raspberry jam soon made everything right.

So right, in fact, that I was able to go out and mow the middle lawn.  When I had put the mower away, I had a last look round the garden.

The verbena is looking very fine.  I wasn’t very taken with it when it first came out, as I thought that it was rather spindly and insubstantial, but it has got better and better as time goes on, and it is another of those flowers of which each head is a little garden in itself.  I like that.

verbena

Mrs Tootlepedal likes the gorgeous blue of the gentians which are growing in a pot beside the chimney.

gentian

The sedums were glowing in the evening sun and they had attracted several visitors.

sedum and insect

As well as flowers, the garden is full of flying things.  The starlings which live in our neighbour’s holly tree have taken to perching on our new electricity lines and there are often several to be seen.

starling on wire

The mint is still very busy with these bright green flies…

greenbottle on mint

… and every time you walk past it, there is a mighty buzzing as they all fly up into the air..

There was a family of sparrows lined up on the house gutter and I was interested to see that as in all families, there was one that was sulking and refusing to get its picture taken.

sparrows on gutter

Mrs Tootlepedal rounded the day off by cooking some the fish from the morning’s market for our tea.  It went well with potatoes, turnips and beans from the garden.

Then we had the double pleasure of watching the highlights of both the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain.  The Tour of Britain is in Scotland for a couple of days and it was nice to see the peleton on familiar roads.

The flying bird of the day is a mechanical one.  It passed over the garden in the evening and as it was carrying a big TV camera, I wondered if it had been busy photographing cyclists earlier in the day and was on its way to Kelso for tomorrow’s stage.

helicopter

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