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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend and horticultural adviser Liz.  She went for a paddle on the Union Canal, and knowing that I like bridges, she sent me this.

union canal

After two sunny day, we reverted to a grey and drizzly day again today.  It was an ideal morning for staying indoors so I did just that…

…though I did poke my nose outside in a less drizzly moment to see what was going on.

A bee was trying on a dashing pink hat…

bee on lamium

…and in spite of the gloomy weather, there were quite a few red admiral butterflies around.  I caught one on the buddleia and another one flat out on the sedum, having a snooze.

butterfly on sedum

I checked to see if there were any blackbirds in the rowan tree.  You might think that it would be easier to stand on a twig and peck upwards, but the general trend seems to be to balance carefully and peck downwards.

balckbird diving for berry

I did actually see a blackbird fall off its twig trying this method.   It steadied itself though  and chose a safer spot.

blackbird in rowan tree

After lunch, the drizzle cleared up and the forecast offered some hours of dryish weather in spite of still having quite a lot of rain on its weather map.  I got my bike out and set off to see how far I could get before it started to  rain again.

Farmers have been making good use of the recent sunny days and the number of bales of silage in this field shows just how well the grass has been growing this summer.

silage

I looked down at the wall which you can see at the bottom of the picture above and saw a veritable feast of lichens.

four lichens on wauchope road wall

All these were within a few feet of each other.

I took a little diversion up to Cleuchfoot, and stopped to admire the autumn fruits, sloes and brambles, beside the road.  It looks like being a fruitful season.

sloe and bramble

I got to the top of Callister and as it began to rain lightly, I turned for home.  There was almost no wind today, a very rare thing these days, and it was warm so in spite of the light rain, it was enjoyable to be out and about.

By the time that I had got back to Langholm after 14 miles, the rain had stopped so I didn’t.  I went through the town and out of the other side.  I had to wait at the junction at the bridge to let a small convoy of MGBs through.  They were obviously on a tour and perhaps a reader, looking at the number plate, can tell me where they come from.

MGB

When I had crossed the bridge, I had to stop again on the Kilngreen, because not only could I see Mr Grumpy crouching beside the river…

crouching heron

…but there was a cormorant perched on a rock at the Meeting of the Waters.

comorant

Local fishermen will not be happy.

I pedalled on up the main road for three miles, stopped to admire the view…

near Hoghill

…and pedalled back home again, pleased to have got 21 miles in on a day that had started so miserably.

After a cup of tea (and a biscuit) with Mrs Tootlepedal and our friend Mike who had dropped in, I was sufficiently revived to go out into the garden and mow the front lawn. The grass is growing well in our garden too and the lawns are needing to be mowed every two or three days.

While I was out, I had a look round and was delighted to see a robin.  I hadn’t seen one for some time.

robin on fence

While I was tracking the robin, I nearly trod on this blackbird.  It was very reluctant to move from a spot where it had obviously found something interesting to eat.

young blackbird on ground

When I looked up at the rowan tree, more blackbirds were finding things to eat.

After a good look round, this one….

blackbird eyeing up beries

…took the plunge, grabbed a berry and swallowed it whole.

blackbird eating berries

Berries were going down well…

berry in blackbird beak

…though some were harder to grasp than others.

close up balckbird with berry

The berries will not last long if the blackbirds keep going at this rate.

I left the blackbirds to it, and walked around looking for flowers.  The honeysuckle on the fence is flowering well and still has plenty to come…

honeysuckle

…and Crown Princess Margareta is making a plucky effort to have a late show.

crown princess margareta rose

Then my flute pupil Luke came and showed evidence of practice.  This can only be a good thing.  Both he and I are working on improving our breathing skills and are trying hard to avoid heaving up our shoulders when breathing in, a very bad habit.  Getting rid of bad habits is a lot harder than acquiring good habits so we have some way to go.

I made some cauliflower cheese for our evening meal and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I settled down to the double delight of watching the highlights of both the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain.

I didn’t quite catch a flying bird of the day, but this blackbird had to use its wings a lot to steady itself so it gets the title today, whether it was actually flying or not.

flying berry blackbird

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

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

A pot of gold

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She has visited Paris and thought she would take a picture of the Place de la Concorde as she thinks we all could do with a little concord at this time.

dav

We had another sunny morning here, but once again the day was sprinkled with showers and predicting when they would arrive was tricky.

I went out into the garden in a sunny spell after breakfast and found that the rowan tree was a busy place.

A starling was having a look round…

starling in rowan 1

…and having weighed up the situation…

starling in rowan 2

…it got tucked into the berries.

starling in rowan 3

Other birds looked on…

thrush in rowan

…and a blackbird got in on the act…

blackbird with rowan berry

…and soon everyone was at it.

three birds in rowan

Still, there are plenty of berries to go round.

Rain was forecast for midday so after an early cup of coffee, I set off to do a few miles on my bike before the rain came.  Once again, there was a very brisk wind blowing, and as I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my slightly suspect knee, I settled for 17 miles with the wind behind me for the section with the most climbing.  I didn’t stop to take pictures as I wanted to be sure to be back before the rain started which I was.

As well as the rowan berries, there was more eating going on in other places in the garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal, on her way out to a social lunch engagement, noticed that the nasturtiums by the back door were getting thoroughly nibbled and she spotted the guilty party, a cabbage white caterpillar.

cabbage white caterpillar

While she was out, I mowed the greenhouse grass and then took a walk round the garden to enjoy the colour…

six garden flowers

There was more berry action in the rowan tree.

starling with berry in beak

…and I went in and had a baked potato for my lunch as watching all the eating had made me feel hungry.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her lunch and immediately went off for a business meeting and I stayed indoors because one of the forecast rain showers arrived.

By the time that Mrs Tootlepedal returned, the rain had stopped so we had a look at  the sky and went out for a walk.  We hadn’t gone more that a few hundred yards before it started to rain again.  However, we didn’t cry and as it looked as though it might pass quickly, we kept going and were rewarded by blue skies soon afterwards.

We were headed for Meikleholm Hill as there are no cattle or sheep on it at present so I was hoping to find some wild flowers about.

We saw fungus on the way up to the open hill and a rabbit when we got there (it couldn’t keep up with us)…

two fungus and a rabbit

…and we were soon high enough up to get a good view back over the town.  The rain clouds were disappearing over the back of Whita.

view of langholm from Meikleholm

My hope for wild flowers was realised and there were scabious…

scabius meiklholm

…yarrow…

yarrow meikleholm

…and a host of things that might well be hawkbit.

wild flowers meikleholm

There was any amount of tormentil (which my camera can’t photograph at all well), as well as an interesting pink flower, lots of heather and an occasional fungus.

wildflowers and fungus meikleholm

I took a panoramic view when we got to the col at the back of the hill….

meikleholm panorama

Click to get te fuller picture.

 

…and a closer look at the Gates of Eden

gates of eden from meikleholm

..before we took the mountain bike trail back down the hill.

cycle track down meikleholm

The trail was steep and slippery in places, so we had to go very carefully as our days of skipping down hills like mountain goats are long past, but we got safely back onto a good track in the end.  As we hot the track, it started to rain and and we expected the worst, but in a few minutes we got the best instead.

meikleholm rainbow panorama

Another click will get a larger view.

As it turned out that the foot of the rainbow was obviously lying smack in our garden, you can expect Mrs Tootlepedal to be keener than ever on digging over the beds.

meikleholm rainbow

Once again, we were passed by some light traffic…

horse of meikleholm

…and as we came back down off the hill, there were more flowers and fungus to be seen.

fungus and knapweed meikleholm

We got back to the house just as it started to rain again.

Although it was only just over two miles, it seemed a lot longer with so much to enjoy on the way and with quite a bit of climbing and descending as well.  We felt well rewarded for our efforts.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday visit and Alison and I played a cheerful selection of music while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal sorted the world out.

There are still quite a lot of peacock and red admiral butterflies in the garden, sitting for their portraits….

peacock and red admiral on buddleia

…but I was pleased to catch a white butterfly in flight and although it is not the sharpest picture in the world, I am still more than happy to use it as the flying bird of the day.

flying white butterfly

Today’s guest picture comes from my flute pupil Luke’s mother Sharon.  She has been on Orkney where she visited the chapel built by Italian POWs on the shell of a Nissen hut.

Orkney Chapel

We had a better day today but to make up for the lack of rain, the temperature had dropped a bit and it was still windy.

The cooler weather had not discouraged butterflies and there were several red admirals about…

red admiral september

…and the occasional peacock too.

peacock september

I noticed that one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s runner beans, planted among the flowers along the vegetable garden fence is producing a good crop.

beans on fence

The effort of riding the borrowed bike into a strong wind a couple of days ago had given me a sore knee, a very common complaint when you ride a bike with a slightly different riding position to your normal steed.  The rest yesterday had improved things a lot so I took the opportunity of the dry weather to test my knee with a short ride on my own bike.

Apart from having to battle with a brisk wind again, things went very well, and I managed 10 miles without any knee trouble at all.

I stopped to admire a fungus beside the road, and if you wonder what was admirable about it….

mushroom

…it was the size that attracted my attention.

mushroom and foot

When I got home, I looked longingly at some ripe  plums on a very top branch on the plum tree, well out or reach.  The birds will have to enjoy them.

tall plums

I mowed the front lawn and got a good lot of grass off it.

It has been a good year for grass but the cosmos, which came out just  as the weather turned very wet, have generally  not enjoyed themselves at all.

poor cosmos

The various clematis have had a good year…

clematis on fence

…and crocosmia and poppies are lasting well.

poppies and crocosmialate poppy

After lunch, we went to Edinburgh to visit Matilda, and as well as the usual games, we introduced her to the delights of Clock Patience.  She impressed us by being able to say all the clock face numbers in Gaelic.

We had a lot of fun and the usual excellent meal and came home tired but content.

The flying bird of the day is a bee flitting about among the nicotiana.

bee on nocotiana

Today’s guest picture is a second from my brother’s trip to Tamworth.  As well as the colourful gardens, he enjoyed the contrast between the Tamworth’s ancient bridge and the modern buildings behind it.

Tamworth Bridge

We woke up to sunshine.  It was hard to believe but it was undoubtedly there.  After breakfast, I went out into the garden to enjoy it.

The sunflowers looked more cheerful too.

sunflower group

The sedum is getting flushed with pink…

pink sedum

…and the last of the poppies are still hanging on…

deep red poppy

…but a nasturtium, positively sparkling with joy, took the prize.

sparkling nasturtium

There were even a few butterflies about.  The red admirals seem to like resting on hosta leaves to gather warmth.

buttefly on hosta

Sadly, the sunshine didn’t last for long and we were soon back to gusty winds and frequent rain showers.  I made some potato soup for lunch and while it was cooking, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed a jackdaw making free with our plums.  The miscreant tried to hide behind a leaf when it saw us looking at it, but the well pecked plum in front of it was a giveaway.

jackdaw at the plums

In light of the poor weather, I devoted the afternoon to musical matters until Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea (and the last of the biscuits).

It was still raining off and on when he went, but I was confident that the worst was behind us and I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to come out for a short walk when it had finally stopped.

I carried an umbrella just in case but I had no need for it, as the evening turned out to be much like the early morning.

We passed a large number of ducks on the banks of the Ewes Water as we went along the Kilngreen…

ducks on kilngreen

…and there was an old friend there too.

heron on kilngreen

We walked across the Sawmill Brig and onto the Castleholm.  It was looking lush and green…

view of castleholm

…and the Lodge Walks had a refreshed look about them too.

lodge walks september

The gaps along the side of the Walks, where trees have been taken out, have made room for wild saplings to spring up.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that this is an ash.

new ash tree

Even when the mature trees are still there, views can be gained by peering through the branches.

warbla from Lodge walks

We were passed by some traffic and looking back as it passed us, I wondered of whom it reminded me.  But there were too many choices so I stopped wondering and walked on.

horse rider

We went past the Lodge and came back down the other side of the Castleholm.  One of my favourite trees looks at its best at this time on a sunny evening.

pine tree castleholm

Looking across at the trees that line the Lodge walks, it was apparent that autumn is on its way as the leaves are just starting to lose a little colour here and there.

back of lodge walks

In the shade beside the paths on our way home, I could see red campion…

red campion

…and snowberries.

snowberry

After the gloom of the last few days, a sunny walk was most welcome and we had worked up an appetite for the rest of the sausage stew and some courgette fritters for our tea.  They went down well.

No flying bird of the day today.  Indeed this bird looks as though it has hardly got a feather to fly with.

moulting blackbird

Rule #5

Today’s guest picture was very kindly sent to me by my brother Andrew.  He quite rightly felt that we all needed cheering up on account of the political situation, and thought that there could be no more cheerful sight than the riverside gardens at Tamworth.

Tamworth gardens

After yesterday’s miserable day of wind and rain, we got a duplicate wet and windy day today.  As a result, I was more than happy to let breakfast and the crossword drift gently into coffee and a biscuit.  At this point, I was rescued from gloomy torpor by first, the arrival of Sandy looking to borrow the Archive Group projector, and then by Dropscone, who turned up with great expectations, having read in yesterday’s post that there was a chance of biscuits as well as coffee.

We did indeed enjoy the recorder group’s biscuits with some Guatemalan coffee.  The rain fell steadily outside.

When the coffee klatch disbanded, I thought about cycling down to Longtown on my borrowed bike in order to  hand it back and collect my own bike from the bike shop and ride it home.

I thought about it and I looked at the rain and then I thought again.

But then I remembered the Rules of the Velominati, the invisible hand that guides the cyclists of the world along the truth path of enlightenment.

Their mission statement is this:

The Rules lie at the beginning of The Path to La Vie Velominatus, not at the end; learning to balance them against one another and to welcome them all into your life as a Velominatus is a never-ending struggle waged between form and function as we continue along The Path towards transcension.

There are many rules, many of the only apply to more serious cyclists than me but I like Rule 12 which says:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1 where n is the number of bikes that you already own.

Today I particularly thought of rule 9 which states:

If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period. Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.

And the best rule of all, Rule 5:

I cannot reprint what Rule 5 says in this blog for reasons of taste, but suffice it say that the general tenor of the rule is:

“Stop Crying”

So I stopped crying and put my waterproof gear on and cycled the 15 miles down to Longtown by back and sometimes bumpy roads on my borrowed bike (which has a very upright riding position) into a stiff wind and with rain battering into my face for most of the way.

I enjoyed it.

Once you are wet, you can’t get any wetter and it was reasonably warm so there was nothing to complain about.

I enjoyed coming back by a straighter route on my own much more comfortable bike, with the wind behind me and the rain reduced to a drizzle even more for some reason.

My bike was in the repair shop because of a persistent and annoying noisy vibration, probably coming from the belt drive.  I say probably because the best brains at the bike shop are baffled and although their efforts have led to an amelioration, they have not led to a complete cure.  Further trial and research is in order.  Meanwhile the bike is riding pretty well so I am fairly happy.

When I got back, I had a look round the garden in the drizzle to enjoy what colour I could find.

rudbeckia

The bad weather had not put a small insect off visiting the zinnia.

zinnia with insect

And a cosmos smiled shyly at me through the gloom.

cosmos

Lilian Austin keeps producing more late flowers…

two lilians

…and most surprising of all is this clematis at the front door, as this is the third time is has produced flowers this year.

very late front door clematis

I had time for a shower and a late lunch and then I set off to Carlisle (in the rain) but this time by car.  I was heading for the station to pick Mrs Tootlepedal up from the London train.

Quite by chance, I saw this fine steam locomotive, 45699 Galatea, waiting at platform 3 to haul a steam excursion down the line.

Galatea 45699

Mrs Tootlepedal’s train was punctual to the very minute, indeed it might even have been a fraction early, so I had to leave the steam engine and go to meet her.

It wasn’t raining in Carlisle but it was raining in Langholm when we got back.  There are disadvantages in living among the hills on the edge of the Solway plain.  After several sunny days in London, Mrs Tootlepedal remarked on them.

There is no flying bird of the day, but I did take a short and wobbly video on my phone of Galatea pulling out of the station.  I have turned the sound down considerably as it was a noisy affair.

I don’t need to say it but I will anyway, it is surpassingly good to have Mrs Tootlepedal home again.

You can find the very extensive list of the Velominati rules here if your interest has been roused.  They are for a specialised taste though and probably not very funny if you are not a cyclist.  My tan lines are very disappointing.