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Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from a reader in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Spurred on by my biscuit making efforts, Lisa has produced her own Garibaldi biscuits which are very nicely presented.

It was a day of constant wind here today, often gusting at over 40mph. As a result, apart from going out for a very short street coffee morning, we had a quiet day indoors as there was definite danger of being blown over if you were not paying attention when you were in the garden.

To be truthful, I did spend a few moments in the garden after coffee seeing if I could get plants to stop waving about for long enough for me to get a picture. One or two obliged.

There were dancing feet to be seen on a Jacob’s Ladder….

…and a Veronica.

More flowers that survived the frost are showing which is a cheerful sight.

Old tulips are fading away gracefully while the Welsh poppies are doing their best to fill any gaps

A shy ranunculus has just come up. Its delicate colour is a challenge to my camera but the dull light this morning was helpful.

I couldn’t miss a second flower on the clematis at the front door. The front door variety may not have the huge number of flowers that the back door clematis has but each of its flowers packs a bit of a punch.

It didn’t take me long to get back inside out of the wind and I frittered away much of the rest of the morning reading newspapers, doing the crossword and looking at birds (and occasionally mentioning to Mrs Tootlepedal that there was a bit of a wind out there).

There were plenty of birds to watch. While the feeder was not very full, sparrows congregated on the bottom plate…

…and when I filled it, a siskin sensibly took the high road.

During the afternoon, a tentative beak appeared…

…which was followed by the rest of the bird…

…and a hearty snack ensued.

Now you know what a happy rook looks like

We did think about going for a walk after lunch but several punishing gusts of wind in quick succession, persuaded us that the chance of fun was strictly limited and we found more things to do indoors.

I put some accompaniments onto the computer so that I can play trios without breaking any isolating rules.

We have been cooking for ourselves since the lockdown began but following a suggestion from a friend, we applied to a local hotel for a hot meal to be delivered this evening, and bang on schedule delicious portions of fish and chips and vegetarian lasagna arrived from The Douglas, fully as tasty as they would have been if we were eating in their dining room.

However, this was a much more substantial amount of food than we have been used to eating, so afterwards I felt the need to ignore the elements and go for a walk to shake the meal down.

Luckily the wind had dropped a bit and the sun had come out and it was by no means a hardship to do a quick three bridges.

The church was looking good without the trees in front of it…

In spite of an inch of rain recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge over recent days, there was still not much water in the river but there were plenty of oyster catchers and a wagtail to be seen.

The nesting mother, the anxious father, and another pair further upstream The wagtail was wagging its tail.

I saw a goosander but as it had its head continuously under water and was trawling at speed, it didn’t offer a photo opportunity.

The brisk wind made things a bit chilly and I didn’t hang about too long as I went round the new path on the Castleholm and crossed the Jubilee Bridge…

…but as always, there were things to see along the way, like a thrush in the Clinthead Garden

It was very tame and hopped about until I had got my picture.

…and some neat planting there….

….trees and flowers on the Castleholm and Scholars’ Field…

…and the the heavily tree lined banks of the Esk as I crossed the bridge.

I was pleased to have taken some exercise, especially as the wind is due to continue for a day or two, so cycling is not on the menu until Monday at the earliest.

The flying bird of the day is one of the many sparrows about at the moment.

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Today’s guest picture from our son Alistair, shows that Matilda needed a parasol to cope with the bright sunshine in Edinburgh today.

matilda parasol

We didn’t get any sunshine here at all.  What made things more annoying was incessant talk on the radio about not letting the good weather tempt us to go out and have fun and break the lockdown.  Just poking a nose outside the back door was more than enough to show that it was quite cold enough for us to need no encouragement to stay inside at all.

I took some pictures of birds to prove that we were visited by one chaffinch, two siskins and three greenfinches in the morning.  (I was waiting for four turtle doves but they didn’t appear.)

chaffinch, siskins, greenfinches

Then I settled down to some serious time wasting which lasted until lunchtime. (I was helped by a good supply of ginger biscuits and a knotty crossword.)

After lunch, I did some desultory fiddling about in the garden and couldn’t find anything new to photograph, so I took a daffodil picture…

morning daffodil

….and sat on a bench waiting for something to happen.

The resident blackbird turned up looking rather cross…

blackbird not shouting

…perhaps because he didn’t think that I was paying enough attention.

blackbird shouting

I was sitting under the Forsythia.

forsythia

I went in and put the cello and piano parts for the first movement of a Mozart divertimento onto the computer and cheered myself up by playing along with the result.

In fact I cheered myself up enough to ignore the chilly wind and get my cycling gear on and go out for a pedal.  I had chosen the best part of the day because it warmed up  a degree or two and the wind dropped a bit as the ride went on.  I enjoyed a tour round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

The economic slowdown has brought some benefits to cyclists as the roads were extremely quiet and the views were quite a bit clearer than usual.  I could see details of the Lake District hills across the Solway….

skiddaw from ryehill

…and a bit of colour and some features on the hills on the other side of the Eden Valley.

pennines from ryehill

Both sets of hills are about 35 miles to the south of us as the crow flies.

I don’t know whether this fallen tree near Ryehills has appeared in a post before, but it struck a chord with me today.  I thought that I knew exactly how it felt.  Things have just got too much for it and it needed a lie down.

resting tree ryehill

My three favourite trees at Grainstonehead are still upright…

three trees grainstonehead

…and when I looked between two of them, the clearer light let me get a good view of the old Liddle railway viaduct a mile away up the valley.liddle viaduct

The savage cutting of the roadside verges and thrashing of many hedges mean that there is not a lot to look at as I cycle past but a few things caught my eye as I went along.

will, dandelion, butterbur and anemone

The patch of butterbur at the Canonbie bridge is very striking.

The landslip on the old road near Irvine House has left a slight better view of the river.

river esk irvine house

My Garmin record tells me that the temperature was over 10°C (50°F) by the time that I went cycling and it did feel a little warmer than it has been, but the cold wind made me glad that I was still dressed for winter pedalling.

When I got home, I found that the jackdaws were creeping about pecking the lawn again…

two jackdaws

…but the condition of the lawn is so poor anyway that it doesn’t upset me.

I like these little daffodils with their windswept petals.  They seem to suit a windy day.

evening daffodil

The tree peony is still reaching up to the heavens, in supplication perhaps for some sunshine.

tree peony raising hands

We don’t have a lot of new flowers but we are getting more of fritillaries and grape hyacinths every day…

fritillary and hyacinth

…and there are encouraging signs of buds on the clematis by the front door.

clematis bud

The red tulips have still not come out and it looks as though they may be pipped at the post by a late surge from a couple of yellow tulips outside the kitchen window.

yellow tulip early

There is a lot of good stuff being offered for free at the moment by arts companies that are closed to the public.  Having had a play from the National Theatre a couple of days ago, we watched Handel’s Acis and Galatea from the Royal Opera and Ballet company today.  They are streaming Cosi Fan Tutte next week.

No flying bird again but a strikingly green starling perched on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree in the early evening is the standing bird of the day.

green starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He was walking along the Esk near Canonbie when he saw these people having fun.

canoeists

It was a better day here today with outbreaks of sunshine and no rain until the evening.  Unfortunately, the persistent strong wind was on the go again and it made things feel very chilly unless you could find a sheltered spot in the sunshine and out of the wind.

I had a busy morning, starting with a visit to the shop to panic buy a bottle of milk.  Fortunately, there were quite a lot of bottles to choose from as the people of Langholm are keeping very calm.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on envelope business as more addresses appear which need deliveries.  I went off to visit Sandy and take him some newspaper index sheets to put into the Archive Group database.  He has two weeks to go before the plaster comes off his leg so he was quite pleased to get something to occupy his time.  I was quite pleased to get an excellent cup of Brazilian coffee and a ginger biscuit or two (or three).

I couldn’t stay long as the final business of the morning was to go with Mrs Tootlepedal to the funeral of a man with whom I used to play in the Town Band and who was the father of one of our daughter’s first friends when we came to Langholm.

When we got home from church, we set about copying more inserts and stuffing them into yet more envelopes.  Luckily another member of the team arrived to take a load to deliver to Canonbie.

While this was going on, I had a moment to watch the birds.  There were plenty about.

busy feeder

Including quite a lot of chaffinches….

flying chafinches

….one of whom made a very stylish approach to the feeder.

flying chaffinch with style

I tried to take a few posing birds for Mrs Tootlepedal’s pleasure but the strong wind was making perching on the fake tree a tricky business.  This greenfinch was hanging on to a wildly swaying twig for dear life, its feathers thoroughly flattened.

greenfinch hanging on

A siskin enjoyed a lull in the wind.

siskin posing

While a greenfinch…

greenfinch on stalk

…and a redpoll found more stable perches.

I think that this one may be a female…

quizzical redpoll

…and this one is a male with its courting court on.

red redpoll

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver some brochures to far flung houses and I went for a walk.  I had hoped for a cycle ride but it was far too windy for cycling to be fun.

I walked down the Esk and was pleased to see a male goosander, even if it was too far away for a good picture.

male goosander

As I walked up Hallpath, I saw a bird of a different feather, or rather no feathers at all, as it is another of the fine wood carvings that grace the town.

wooden peacock

I was walking out to the Laverock bird hide to see if the planned felling of the diseased larch plantation there had begun.

It is a frequent walk but I never tire of it.  I noticed this tree which in its ample girth was strangely reminiscent of the photographer.

P1030989

The path was muddy in places but not nearly as wet as I had expected after another four inches of rain last week.

jenny noble track

The oak wood looked as inviting as ever…

oak wood

..but I plugged on past this fine gorse bush…

gorse on broonholmshiels track

..pausing to look back at the view up the valley…

view from Broom holm

…before getting to the hide.

The plantation was still there and although the bird feeders have been taken down, there were still a lot of birds about, particularly a large flock of chaffinches.    It will probably take them a bit of time to realise that the feeders are not going to magically reappear.  I hope that they find a new source of food soon.

On my way back to Langholm (down the road) I noticed something odd in a pylon.  A closer look showed that it was a man with a good head for heights.  Considering that the wind was blowing briskly, I was very glad that it was him and not me up there.

man up pylon

On my way back down the hill, I passed my favourite wall covered with moss which comes in many styles…

A small forest.

moss forest

A waving meadow.

moss meadow

And a mini mountain.

moss mountain

I crossed over Skippers Bridge and walked home along the west bank of the Esk.  The hazel catkins are flourishing at last and I was able to see both catkins and flowers close together today.

hazel flower and catkin

Mrs Tootlepedal had just got back before me and we enjoyed a well earned cup of tea and a slice of fruity malt loaf after our endeavours.

My flute playing friend Luke arrived on cue and we had a very successful play.  We are trying to develop a bit more style in our playing so a contrasting set of pieces, an arrangement of Easy Winners by Joplin, a slow movement form a trio sonata by J J Quantz, and a couple of fiddle hornpipes certainly gave us something to work on.

I made a simple evening meal of baked potatoes and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I sat down to try to make some sense out of the news.  It was hard work.

I thought that I had detected the hand of the prime minister’s special adviser in last week’s bold plan to let a lot of old people die in order to provide acquired immunity for the young and fit.  Today, I sensed that the sudden dawning on the prime minister that the age of the average Tory voter might not make this an election winning plan could have caused this week’s volte face, and the sudden concern for the health of the elderly.   We wash our hands.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  As long as there is seed, they are content.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: I took my cycling computer in my pocket for today’s walk and it tells me that I did 5.7 miles at just over 4 miles an hour, though I did spend an additional  half an hour taking pictures along the way.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  These are just a few of a large flock of white storks which she saw flying over her in Morocco.

Venetia's Moroccan storks

As it was Friday, Dropscone came round for coffee but in a big turn up for the books, he brought no treacle scones with him.  Plain scones were the order of the day.  He claimed that problems with the Chinese supply chain had led to a lack of treacle in the town but I have my doubts about that.  The plain scones were very satisfactory so I had no complaints.

When he left, I battled with a tricky crossword rather than taking some much needed cycle exercise.  Then I wasted a little more time by looking round the garden.  There is  colour but another three inches of rain recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge…

crocus, primula

…explains why most of the crocuses have given up the unequal struggle and are lying flat on the ground.

I made some lentil soup for lunch (Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work of course) and watched the birds before and after eating it.

Here is a perching siskin, just for Mrs Tootlepedal.

perching siskin

Two greenfinches cvisited the feeder…

two greenfinches

…and the rather battered blackbird foraged for seed below.

wounded backbird

I did catch some feeder action.

feeder activity

In the end, I couldn’t waste any more time and got my cycling gear on and went out for a pedal.  The wind had changed from the prevailing west winds of recent days to an easterly wind today, still chilly but not too strong.

I find it a bit hard to get motivated to cycle these days when the temperatures is in single figures and a chilly wind is blowing, so I chose a route with the wind behind me as I set out to give me early encouragement.

This proved a good idea and I enjoyed the ride a lot.

I stopped for a minute or two at every five mile mark and took a picture, ate some guava jelly and had a drink of water.

Here are the five mile pictures and some details of the ride to give you an idea of how much difference a hill or an adverse breeze makes.

5 Miles:  338ft of elevation gain but a following wind: 26 minutes.

Picture: Two buzzards flew round over my head.

buzzards

10 miles: 250 feet of elevation loss with the wind still behind:  20 minutes, my fastest 5 miles of the trip.

Picture: A hint of blue sky but not enough to make a French sailor a pair of trousers.

blue sky

15 miles:  An elevation loss of 91 ft and with the wind still behind, 21 minutes.

Picture: The rather odd looking mismatch between the porch and church in Eaglesfield.

Eaglesfield church

20 miles: A net elevation loss of 58 ft (pretty well flat) with the wind now across. 23 minutes.

Picture: An alder catkin looking good.

alder catking old A74

25 miles:  Another flat section, more or less dead straight with an elevation loss of 59 ft, wind still across. 23 minutes.

Picture: An old mill and forge converted to accommodation to take advantage of the Gretna wedding trade.

mill at gretna

30 miles: Turning for home.  Wind across but more helpful than not: 171 ft of elevation gain.  28 minutes.

Picture: The international border bridge between Scotland (this side) and England (over there)

sark border brodge

I looked over the bridge to see if Boris Johnson had managed to bring the nations of the UK closer together as is his stated wish, but the gap between the banks remained exactly the same as ever. Must try harder.

river sark

I had stuck to my plan of only taking pictures every five miles up to this point but I cracked when I saw the last tree in England just before I went back into Scotland…

last tree in England

…the first lambs of the year at Glenzier…

first lambs glenzier

…and this charming little hill at Ryehills Farm.

raehill trig point

I got back to business again.

35 miles:  A net gain of 156 ft (some of it steep!) and a reasonably helpful wind,  28 minutes.

Picture:  Curious bulls near Wauchope Schoolhouse.

bloch bull

40 miles:  Back down the hill into the town with a couple of miles through the town and back added to round off the distance.  Net height loss of 188ft, sheltered from the wind. 21 minutes

Picture:  The view of the bridge over the dam and the gate to Wauchope Cottage,  always a welcome sight.

 

dam bridge

I reached a heady average speed of 13.5 mph after 15 miles with the wind behind me, but the changes of direction and the hills on the way back home, took their toll and I ended with an  average of 12.5 mph.   Towards the end of the trip, the wind obligingly moved round a few points so it wasn’t against me as much as it might have been and this made the ride very enjoyable.  I still wouldn’t mind a warm day though.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and among some familiar pieces, Alison and I tried out a new sonata by Daniel Purcell.  It sounded promising.

After playing, the general conversation turned to the virus and its effects.  A lot of things have been cancelled; Mrs Tootlepedal’s embroidery group, the camera club meeting, the Carlisle Choir and the Langholm Choir, the forthcoming performance by our local operatic society, Mrs Tootlepedal’s and my proposed trip to London to visit Evie, and train trips to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

Life will be quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He visited Kedlestone Hall in Derbyshire on one of the better recent days.

kedlestone hall

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to yet another meeting after breakfast and inspired by her vigour, I managed to get myself into my cycling gear and out of the house before coffee time.  Admittedly, I was helped in this by the knowledge that the forecast for the afternoon was very poor and it was now or never as far as comfortable cycling went.

There are now some definite signs of spring as I go round my customary 20 mile Canonbie route with daffodils out beside the road in several places.

daffs on cycle tour

Rather annoyingly, the brisk breeze was back again but one of the reasons that I like my Canonbie route so much is that it protects from the worst of a westerly wind and I get some help going home.  All the same, I had to keep my head down and pedal quite hard at times so I didn’t stop a lot.

When I did stop, the Canonbie cows were too busy to look up.

two canonbie cows

The sun came out as I was pedalling home, and with the wind behind me there were moments when it almost felt warm.

The sun picked out this dramatic tree near Irvine House.

tree a Irvine house

Mrs Tootlepedal was still out when I got home so after a quick check on the pond…

frogs

…and an inventory of growth in the garden…

garden growth

…I went off to cadge a cup of coffee and a ginger biscuit or two from Sandy.

He is remaining remarkably cheerful in spite of the tedium of being housebound for several weeks.  He has some entertainment though, as a pair of blue tits have settled into the nest box on his shed.  I caught a glimpse of one them today.

sandy's blue tit

On my way home, I was struck by these dark shapes in a tree.  They turned out to be a pair of rooks considering  redecorating the sitting room in their nest in the rookery.

two rooks holmwood

I got home in time for lunch and was joined by Mrs Tootlepedal.  Her meeting had extended itself into taking important visitors up on to the moor, where they had seen two hen harriers and several goats and kids.  Everyone had enjoyed this a lot.

After lunch, I had a moment to watch the birds.

Unlike yesterday’s neat eater, today’s siskin shows much more typical behaviour.

siskin dropping food

Goldfinches flew in from every angle…

flying goldfinches

…and once ensconced on the feeder, they looked both this way and that.

goldfinch contrast

Having checked the forecast again, I discovered that I might just have enough time for a walk before the rain started so I set out for a short walk over three bridges.

I had had the best of the day on my cycle ride. The cold was now colder, the sky was greyer and the wind was stronger but there were still definite signs of spring along the waterside on both sides of the Langholm Bridge.

signs of spring by the river

And a good supply of birds posing for the camera.

riverside birds march

The ducks have paired off for spring and these two were getting their heads together over some tasty snack just under the surface as I went over the Sawmill Brig.

ducks getting heads together

I walked up past the Estate Offices and admired the wall beside the road.  It is the stone wall with everything: ivy, peltigera lichen, hart’s tongue fern and any amount of moss.

growths on wall above ewesbank

In fact, I was quite surprised to be able to see some stones at one point.

wall above ewesbank

You see a lot more colourful sheep in the fields these days than you did when white wool was a big source of the sheep farmer’s income.

grey sheep

I went along the top of the wood and then dropped down through the snowdrops at Holmhead.  They are still looking good.

snwodrops holmhead

On my way back to the lodge, I passed a couple of sawn off tree stumps.  I imagine that recent rain and strong winds had made them unsafe so that they were cut off before they fell down completely.  The inside of the trunks didn’t look too healthy, I thought.

felled trees

The forecast had been right.  I didn’t have too much time before the rain came.  Unfortunately, because I had stopped to take so many pictures, my time ran out and the rain came on well before I got home.  I stopped taking pictures, put up the hood on my new coat which I had prudently worn, crossed the Duchess Bridge and hurried home….

…stopping only for this lovely burst of blossom beside the river behind the school.

blossom behind school

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone out for another meeting so once again, I took the hint from her industriousness and settled down at the computer to tax our car (cost £0 thanks to it being electric) and catch up on some correspondence with two old friends who had  written to me out of the blue.  As I had promised to reply in a couple of days to the one who wrote to me in January , it was none too soon to get to work.  Still, as I hadn’t seen him for nearly fifty years, a few weeks probably wouldn’t make a lot of difference.

Mike Tinker dropped in for tea and Mrs Tootlepedal returned (soaked) from her business and joined us.

Then it was time for flute playing with Luke.  He is between jobs at the moment so he has had time to practise and this has had a very good result.  I will be taking lessons from him soon.

After tea, I put most of a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database before turning to the production of this post.  It has been a full day.

The flying bird of the day is an angry goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from one of our neighbour Liz’s morning walks with her dog.  They visited a lovely little waterfall on the Becks Burn.  As this involves quite a bit of scrambling, she deserves great credit for getting the shot.

waterfall becks burn Liz

I started the active part of my day by cycling round to the shop to get some milk.  I took the slightly longer route along the water side in the hope of seeing something interesting.

I though that a one legged oyster catcher  counted as interesting…

oyster catcher one leg

…and the first riverside blossom of spring was actually exciting.

cherry blossom by river

When I got back home, it wasn’t long before Dropscone arrived for morning coffee bringing his trademark Friday treacle scones with him.

He has recovered from his recent holiday and is back in the golfing groove again.

After Drospcone left, I walked up the hill to visit Sandy who has three more weeks to go before he is mobile again after his foot operation.   He is suffering a bit from cabin fever but I think my visit must have done him good because he says he always feels more cheerful when I leave.

It was lunch time when I got back and I had a few moments after lunch to watch the birds.  The chaffinches were in a twisty mood today.

bendy flying chaffinches

It had been near zero first thing in the morning and in spite of some sunny weather, the temperature had only crept up to 6°C by this time.  All the same, new crocuses were out in the garden….

white crocuses

…the silver pear is getting ready to flower….

silver pear bud

…and a couple of frogs were relaxing in the pool…

frogs on pond

…so things felt quite spring like.  In spite of this, I had to wrap up warmly before I went out on my bike.  I chose a different route today as I felt that my legs might be up to a few more small hills than usual.

I embarked on a “four dale” outing by starting out along the Esk, stopping to show how calm the river was at Skippers after a dry week.

skippers bridge March

I then went up and over and back down into the Tarras Valley, where I followed the route of the old railway.

In a better organised world, I would have been cycling on a beautifully maintained cycle path from Langholm to Carlisle using the disused trackbed instead of trying to get a shot of the old railway bridge at Mumbie through a mess of fallen trees.

railway bridge at Mumbie 1

I got a better view of the bridge from above.

railway bridge at Mumbie

At Claygate, I headed over to Liddesdale on a very undulating road which made me grateful for excuses to stop and admire trees….

tree on claygate road (2)

…sunshine behind me over the hills round Langholm…

view of solway from Calygate road

…a tall bridge over the Archer Beck…

Archer beck bridge

…and a distant view of the Solway in sunshine behind the Gretna wind turbines.

view from claygate road

Happily, the sunshine caught up with me and picked out a final tree for me to photograph…

tree on Claygate road

…before I got to Harelaw and turned to follow the Liddle Water down Liddesdale to Canonbie and beyond.

After the Liddle had joined the Esk, I stopped to have a look at the railway bridge over the Glinger Burn.

railway bridge A7

I was standing on the main road bridge that Simon had been under when he took this guest picture that appeared in the blog two weeks ago.

simon's bridges

Like today’s guest picture, he must have done some good scrambling to get down there.

Having gone down stream in general on my ride, I turned off soon afterwards and headed back across country towards home.

I stopped for a snack and a drink at this bridge….

 

beck burn bridge

…which spans the Beck Burn.

beck burn

As a name for a stream, this lacks a little originality as it is like calling a stream, the Stream Stream as a beck and a burn are the same thing.

I had the light breeze behind me now and pedalling uphill towards Tarcoon was not as hard as it might have been with the wind against…

hill at Tarcoon

…and the clouds that had been there at the start of my ride had been blown away by the breeze so that the ride back to Langholm looked inviting.

view from Tarcoon

I was hoping to do 30 miles and my bike computer said that I had done 30.08 miles as I entered our drive.  I thought that my route planning had been pretty good.

I was glad to get inside as the temperature had dropped back to a chilly 3° in spite of the sunshine.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent a very busy day on community land purchase business but she still had the energy to cook a very tasty toad in the hole for our tea, and I was sufficiently invigorated by that to be able to play duets with Alison when she and Mike came round for their usual Friday evening visit.

As Alison says, it is always fun to play duets but I think it would be even more fun if I played better so I am resolved to try to make time for some serious flute practice next week.  The forecast is full of rain for the whole week, so it should be easier to find time than it has been in this past week of good weather.

I have made reasonable use of the good week and with a hundred miles of  cycling, I have done almost as much already in March as I did in the whole of February.

A sunny chaffinch makes a suitable flying bird of the day to sum up five days without serious rain.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo’s Australian trip.  Her husband used his phone to take this shot of a big flock of bats.

Mary Jo's bats

We woke to brilliant sunshine and we were easily able to ignore a crisp temperature and a nippy wind.  Not having rain and a gale were quite enough to keep us happy.  The crocuses were ignoring the chill too and had opened their petals to greet the sun at an unusually early hour.

daff, crocus and rain gauge

Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge showed that we had had another four and a bit inches of rain recently so it is remarkable that the crocuses haven’t thrown the towel in.

And talking of towels, Mrs Tootlepedal thought that the best thing about the morning was that she could hang the washing out without it coming back in wetter than when it went out.

washing march

Dropscone, back from his Northumbrian holiday, arrived with scones and our friend Gavin kindly dropped in to help us eat them as we drank our coffee.

Dropscone had enjoyed his break with his two daughters and his granddaughter in spite of some very windy days.

After coffee, I spent some time pretending to be a man who was going cycling but actually watching birds instead.  (It may have been sunny but the wind was far from kind.)

The birds tended towards sneaking in from behind the feeder today.

chaffinch round the back

Both chaffinches and siskins were at it.

siskin round the back

And a blue tit escaped before I could catch it.

blue tit leaving

It was thin pickings for my camera but fortunately some chaffinches were prepared to co-operate.

This one came in at a perfect height…

chaffinch too low

…but this one was all too conscious that it was bit too high for comfort.

chaffuinch too high

In the end, I couldn’t waste any more time so I pumped up my tyres and set off into the unforgiving breeze.

The government was keeping an eye on my progress.

low flying plane

I was thinking of doing 30 miles, heading into the wind for 15 miles and then being blown home, but the sun had long gone and there was a sort of rain hanging about in the air and annoying me.  After only three miles both uphill and into a twenty mile an hour breeze, I thought better of it and turned left and headed for my twenty mile Canonbie circuit instead.

I kept my head down and didn’t stop much as I didn’t want to get chilled.  However, this fine tree caught my eye after five miles so I stopped for it…

tree at raehills

…but I didn’t stop again until I got back to Langholm.  In fact I didn’t even stop when I got to Langholm because, out of the blue, the sun had come out and things looked a lot brighter so I pedalled on through the town.

I still wasn’t intending to take any more pictures but the Ewes Valley mugged me.

ewes view in sunchine

And then I stopped again to record a common sight these days, a puddle that has become a pond.

ewes puddle

And with the sun making stopping a little less chilly business, I allowed a tree to detain me…

ewes tree

…and thought that I ought to record Ewes Church, my turning point for home…

ewes church

…and a nearby bridge (with an additonal gate as a bonus).

ewes church bridge

Some black clouds rolled over me as I pushed into the wind on my way back home but I sneaked past a rain shower and got home dry, having coincidentally having done exactly the 30 miles that I had set out intending to do.

Gavin had seen some young wild goats yesterday so when I got home,  I asked Mrs Tootlepedal if she would like to see if we could find them too.  She thought that this was a good idea, and we scooped up Mike Tinker who had come or a cup of tea but got potential goats instead, and set off up the hill in the Zoe.

As we turned onto the hill road a mini blizzard started and we got some rather odd views as went we went up the hill.  We could see a sunny Ewes Valley through a curtain of hail.

snow and the Ewes valley

The hail and snow got worse as we reached the moor and we were just beginning to think that our trip was ill advised, when the clouds blew over and a rainbow appeared.

snowy rainbow

We got down to the Tarras and sure enough there were two goats with kids.

This pair turned their backs on me…

goat with kid

…but this proud mother was more accommodating…

goat checking me out

…and waiting to make sure that I had taken her good side…

goat profile

…then got her children to pose prettily for the camera.

goat with kids

The snow had passed without a trace and the light was lovely as we looked up the Tarras Valley before we headed for home.

tarras view

A busy day wasn’t over yet, as first my flute playing friend Luke arrived for some duets and then, after tea, Mrs Tootlepedal cut my hair.  This was a load off my mind.

She had been able to get out into the garden for some tidying up work while I was out cycling, so we had made good use of a better day between us.

The flying bird of the day is one of those accommodating chaffinches, eyeing up its approach to the feeder.

flying chffinch

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