Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who visited Stourhead with her friend Venetia.  As she knows that I like a bridge, she sent me this picturesque example.


I am still quite tired as having a very youthful visitor is not straightforward.  Getting down with the kids is fine. It’s getting up again that is such hard work.

We had a look at the forecast and as it said that it would rain all afternoon, we prudently went for a walk with Evie in the morning.  It was quite chilly so it was just as well that Evie was ready for any weather.

Evie in pushchair

By co-incidence, we met three people on our walk who were very happy to see Evie.

On our way out, we met our neighbour Margaret…

Evie meets margaret

…at the furthest extension of our stroll, we met our neighbour Liz (and Riley, who was pleased to see Evie too)….

Evie meets Liz and Riley

…and just as we got home, we met Archivist Nancy.  Our friend Gavin was on hand to record this final meeting.

Evie meets nancy pic by GG

We wanted to show Evie the best of the area so this is us going past the sewage works.

Evie going past sewage works

On the river side of the path, we could see marks left by the recent flood.  Evie was very impressed by the hardiness of these snowdrops.  They had been many feet under water on Saturday night but they had survived to flower another day.

snowdrops beside river after flood

We reached the end of the town where we took this picture to record the distinguished visitors Evie and her mother Annie along with Mrs Tootlepedal.

Evie at lands End

I must admit that while Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie were talking to Liz at this point, my attention wandered to a favourite fence.

lands end lichen

All these delights were within a yard or two.  A little further along the fence was the longest streak of this lichen that I have ever seen.

lands end lichen strip

On our way back, we noticed a pussy willow…

first pussy willow

…and a delightfully scented Mahonia near the co-op.

mahonia at Co-op

Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie went into the Co-op to do some shopping while I wheeled Evie three times round the car park.  She was asleep so I didn’t need to chatter away to her and once again found myself distracted by lichen, this time on the metal bars separating the car park from the road.

co-op lichen 1co-op lichen 2

Evie did raise a finger in protest at the delay, so I pushed on when the others came out of the shop….

Evie's fingers

…and apart from stopping to identify the source of some very loud singing near the river…

robin beside river

…we didn’t dilly dally and got home just before the rain started.

Evie was very good and didn’t cry at all.

I made some soup for lunch from the remains of yesterday’s chicken stew with some added lentils and then we settled down for a quiet afternoon in, from time to time looking out of the  window to watch the rain come down and some birds appearing at the feeder.

busy feeder rain

Annie was happy to see siskins which she  doesn’t get at her feeder in London  The siskins weren’t very happy to see a chaffinch approaching….

siskins being rude to chaffinch

..but at least one chaffinch did land and enjoy a seed or two.

siskins and chaffinch rain

Mike and Alison came round for afternoon tea and the chance to get to know the current holder of the title of The World’s Greatest Baby.

There was a teatime treat too as Mrs Tootlepedal had known that Annie and Evie were coming and had baked a cake.

We had macaroni cheese for our evening meal and Evie took to it with great gusto and some of it even made it into her mouth.

Once again she is sleeping peacefully as I write this, the perfect guest.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  To greet is the Scots word meaning to cry.  Evie is the least crying baby that I have ever met, I think.

Further footnote:  Our own robin was so cross about a foreign robin getting into the post that it insisted that I put this picture in too, even though it is not very good.

robin close up


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My brother Andrew passed on this guest picture of the day from his son Nick.  The River Soar has burst its banks and Nick’s garden near Nottingham was in this state when he woke up this morning.

Nick's flood

We had another grey but dry day here today but the forecast is offering us a lot more rain to come.  I couldn’t take advantage of the weather to get out for a walk as I had a visit from a man looking for photographs in the morning.

We had a good look through eight years of pictures, courtesy of the excellent media search system on WordPress and selected ten possibilities.  That took time but was relatively easy.   Then I had to try to find the originals as the pictures I use on the blog are too small to be useful elsewhere,  This took a lot of time but I did find not only an old external hard drive but the connecting lead too so I was able to get originals of most of the selection.

This didn’t leave me a lot of time to look at birds, although my visitor kindly pointed out this resting blackbird as he passed by the window.

blackbird resting on hedge

It was a day of few birds but there were enough chaffinches about to annoy one of our resident dunnocks.

dunnock and chaffinch

One chaffinch is enough to annoy a dunncok.

Some birds did turn up in the end…


…but this one preferred to remain anonymous…

flying chaffinch hiding

…and reflections in the window spoiled this one’s efforts to become FBotD.

flying chaffinch with streaks

I walked round the garden but it has got colder again and crocuses, whether singly…

closed crocus with raindrops

…or in clumps, were sulking.

closed crocuses with raindrops

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle to collect our daughter Annie and her daughter Evie from the London train.

They had survived the journey very well and Annie was full of praise for the station staff at Euston who had gone out of their way to get her on to the train with her pushchair before the other passengers boarded and had found her a suitable seat.

The only drawback to the Zoe is that the battery takes up a lot of room and as a result our boot is very small.  We just managed to squeeze Evie, Annie, the pushchair and a big case in and drove back to Langholm safely.

Evie has settled down well and is sleeping quietly as I write this.  She was undisturbed by a gang of recorder players who came in the evening and played music in the front room.

I am quite tired at the moment and will try to write more fully tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is another chaffinch who avoided the worst of the reflections in the window.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He saw what looks like the narrowest tall building in the world on a visit to London.  He revealed that the secret of its narrowness is that it is triangular.  He found a good angle to take his picture.

Tony thin building

It was dry but still very windy here today and I nearly got blown off my bicycle on my way to the shop to buy some milk.  In a sign of the time, the shopkeeper told me that he is looking into the possibility of going back to glass milk bottles to cut down on plastic use.

When I got home, I had time to watch the birds battling the wind too.  At times the feeder was very rocky…

swaying feeder

…and the birds got buffeted by the breeze as they tried to land.

buffeted chaffinch

I was a second too slow with my shutter finger  to catch a flying bird of the day as this one applied the brakes on landing.

chaffinch landing

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy preparing for the arrival of our  younger granddaughter tomorrow but she also went off to deliver the second curtain to the Archive Centre  so I had time to go round the garden.

hellebore, crocus, chaffinch

A little sunshine cheered things up.

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and then, ignoring the forecast possibility of rain, I went for a walk.

When I got to the park, I could see the tidemark left by Saturday night’s flood.

tide mark in park

Things have dried up well, helped by the strong winds, but there are still some good puddles in the fields, and plenty of water coming through the pipe at the old distillery and joining the rush down the river.

puddle spout and rapid

There was a good amount of water coming down the Esk but Skippers Bridge only needed one of its three arches to cope with the flow.

skippers bridge after flood

As I walked down the road beside the river, I reflected on the size of the chap who must have sat and rested on this fence.

bent fence

I left the road and walked up the track across the old railway.  The path through the oak wood was as enjoyable as ever….

oak wood walk

…but the path back to town through the birch wood was a bit tacky…

bierch wood walk

…though not as bad as I expected.

I passed several varied little streams in gullies as I went along, but only one was a stream of moss.


I approached the Round House and took advantage of the bench…

roundhouse and bench

…to rest my legs for a moment and enjoy the view over the town.

view from roundhouse

It wasn’t cold but there are still a few patches of snow to be seen on our hills…

late snow timpen

…but to counterbalance that, there are signs of spring about too.

new buds

I was able to look down on Skippers Bridge from the path home, thanks to the power line which has meant that trees have had to be cut back.

skippers from above

Near the end of the  track, I had to duck.

bent tree

When I got to the town, I called in at the newspaper office which is home to the Archive Centre.  Here I was able to admire the second new curtain installed earlier in the day by Mrs Tootlepedal.

new curtain archive centre

The data miners are now curtained off like a Turkish Seraglio and can safely practice their arcane rituals unobserved….and more importantly, without inconvenient draughts.

I walked on to the Town Bridge and was able to spot an oyster catcher having a good stretch.

oyster catching stretching

The water in the rivers has turned from an angry brown to a sullen grey, with the Ewes on the right, being greyer than the Esk.

grey meeting of the waters

I have been asked by a couple of people if I can provide them with some cheerful pictures of local areas and this meant that I had to sit down and do battle with my picture filing system.  My method for filing involves the well tested “I’ll worry about that later” principle.”

This however was now that ‘later’ moment, but I surprised myself a great deal by being able to locate the memory cards on which photos from, 2012 to 2016 were stored. I was even able to pin down a particular picture from 2014.  Mrs Tootlepedal was very impressed.  I was quite impressed myself.

Then my flute playing friend Luke arrived and we had another go through our Quantz sonata with some satisfactory progress being made.  We have both resolved to try to practise a bit more if time permits.

After tea, I went of to the monthly meeting of the Camera Club.  Sadly Sandy was unable to be with us as he is still in hospital after his operation but seven members gathered and we had a varied and very enjoyable selection of photographs to look at, with pictures from all over Britain and the world beyond as well as many local studies.  There was tea and biscuits at half time as well,  so this was a very satisfying meeting.

The flying bird of the day is a rather morose looking chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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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.


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.


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 is another from camera club member Simon’s recent walk in our hills.  It was so grey today that I thought we needed at least one bit of sunshine to brighten up the day.

simon's walk

Storm Dennis arrived softly but it was raining by coffee time and the wind got up as the day went on.  Luckily we seemed to have been spared the worst once again but it was still a gloomy and miserable day.

Like the rain, the birds arrived slowly and a lone siskin started things off…

lone siskin in rain

…although when it looked left, it saw a bird arriving…

siskin nand chaffunch

…and when it looked right, it saw that another had arrived.

siskin and siskin

In the end it stopped looking around and concentrated on eating seed.

busy feeder

Once the siskins had taken over the whole feeder, new comers got a dusty welcome whether they came from on high…

siskin coming from on high

…or on the level.

siskin coming in from below

The rain occasionally eased off and the gusty wind dropped too…

placid chaffinch

…but it soon started to blow again.

goldfinches in the wind

I took advantage of a moment when the rain had dropped to a drizzle to walk to the shops and purchase some necessities.  There was cheese involved.  I was pleased to have the ample hood on my new coat to protect me from the rough wind.

When I got home, I checked to see what was going on in the garden.  It is quite warm today at 10 degrees C and the early daffodils seemed quite perky…

daffodil in Dennis

..while some crocuses…

yellow crocus in Dennis

…had even defied the elements and opened their petals.

pale blue crocus in Dennis

The rhubarb is still sulking.  Following a conversation with our friend Mike, Mrs Tootlepedal is going to put a bucket over one shoot and try a little forcing.

rhubarb not doing much

After a quiet afternoon in front of the telly, I took a walk down to the Wauchope to see if the rain had caused it to rise.  It was still pretty calm.

wauchope storm Dennis PM

This was more than I was as I went home, because a tremendous gust of wind accompanied by a mini deluge of rain filled my wellies with water and got my socks wet.

I went out again at seven o’clock in the evening when the rain had stopped to see what was what.

The Wauchope was full but not alarming but the Esk was raging.

Esk storm dennis 1

…and dangerously close to its banks.

Esk storm dennis 2

Quite a few others were out doing some river watching too and this lady showed my some pictures of severe flooding in our neighbouring village Newcastleton, which is just over the hill from us.

spectators storm Dennis

We have more than enough water in our river so here’s hoping that we don’t get more.  It was still rising even though the rain had stopped.

Esk storm dennis 3

An orange street light at the suspension bridge showed how high the water is.

Esk storm dennis 4

More strong winds and rain are forecast for tomorrow so we will just have to wait and see what happens.

A siskin is the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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The guest picture of the day comes from Dropscone’s pre-Brexit visit to Amsterdam.  He felt that I didn’t have enough pigeons on my recent blogs.

pigeons amsterdam

We are awaiting the arrival of storm Dennis.  In the meantime, Dropscone came for coffee this morning.  Local readers will be well aware that Dropscone’s Sunday name is also Dennis, and he remarked as he left after coffee, that he thought that Dennis was a pretty silly name for a storm.  Whether Storm Dennis will be a silly storm or a serious one remains to be seen.

As Dropscone and I sipped coffee and ate fine treacle scones, some preliminary rain arrived and Mrs Tootlepedal, who was out doing business on her bicycle got thoroughly soaked before she got home.

As did the birds.  I thought that this picture summed up the day quite well…

goldfinch rain

…until I took this one.

siskin goldfinch rain

We had both goldfinches…

three goldfinches rain

…and siskins today…

three siskins rain

…and plenty of rain as you can see.

This goldfinch had also been listening to its mother.

goldfinch sitting up straight

Fortunately a very interesting magazine arrived through the post so I had a lot of good reading to help me pass the time while the rain continued but by mid afternoon, the rain had stopped so I put my nose out of the door.

And then followed it with the rest of me, suitably attired for more possible rain.

Our smaller bridges were using both their arches to good effect, both across the Wauchope….

kirk bridge wet day

…and the Ewes.

sawmill bridge two arches

The Esk was slightly less brown than the other two rivers but it wasn’t short of water.

beach beside kirk bridge

I crossed the river and went up to the High Street.

The data miners at the Archive Centre have been rightly complaining of chilly draughts.  As it happened, Nancy, our treasurer, found that she had a couple of old curtains to spare after improvements to her ancestral castle so Mrs Tootlepedal has been at work with her needle today and one of them is now hanging over one of the draughty doorways….

new curtain AC

…with another to follow soon.

I continued my walk over another couple of bridges, noting that the rain had caused any trace of snow to disappear from the town and quite a lot of the snow to disappear from our surrounding  hills too.

snow melting off timpen

Doubtless the melting snow had contributed to the water in the rivers.  The waterside birds had to take care not to get washed away and mostly stood on the river banks.

ducks and oyster catchers

A lone gull was at its post on the Kilngreen and Mr Grumpy was supervising a group of ducks who had found some relatively calm water to swim in.

He didn’t look to happy about the task.


Considering how high the water level was, I am not surprised.

flood on Ewes Water

Looking up at the mast on the top of Warbla, it was hard to imagine that I had been standing there a couple of days ago in brilliant sunshine looking down on a snow covered scene.

warbla snow melt

The Duchess Bridge, having only one big span, doesn’t care how high the water gets.

duchess bridge high water

It was still pretty gloomy even without any rain but there were plenty of snowdrops about to brighten the afternoon up…

snowdrops Lodge

…and I found a couple of tiny hazel flowers to add a splash of colour….

hazel flower on twig

…though the camera and I had to look jolly hard to see them.

hazel flower close up

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and as Alison and I had both been practising a bit, we had a most enjoyable time playing our duets.  As we packed our music away, Alison remarked, “Everyone should play duets, ” and I can’t disagree with her.

Stormy Dennis is due to arrive at about breakfast time tomorrow and as we are already pretty soggy, we can only hope that the forecast is once again worse than the actuality.

A siskin, half hidden by a sheet of rain, is the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin rain

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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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