A late reprieve

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She visited Regents Park on a day when, judging by the deckchairs, the wind didn’t know which way it was blowing.

Here, the rain gauge said it all.

It has been raining a lot lately and it rained all night and most of the day today. We wisely stayed indoors and found useful things to do.

I did totter out under my big umbrella as far as our corner shop but otherwise I read the newspapers from cover to cover, did two (easy) crosswords, drank coffee and watched some photo editing tutorials.

Just before lunch, I took a moment to see how the birds were doing in the rain.

In spite of the weather, the feeder was busy.

On wet day, some birds seem to suffer more than others. Today a redpoll looked to have got the wettest.

I did do something useful during the day as Sandy has scanned official brochures for the opening of the town sewage works and new fire station, and he sent them to me today. I added them to the Archive Group’s resource page on its website. The brochures were presented to the group by our neighbour Irving. It is good that people are interested in preserving a record of the history of the town.

In the afternoon, I checked on the garden. It was wet…

…and flowers were literally depressed.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some business to do in the town so we combined that with a trip in the car to the Co-op where we topped up on essentials like cheese, and used the can and glass recycling facilities.

And then, it finally stopped raining.

And the sun came out…

…so I went for a walk.

I passed the church, back to its normal colour after last night’s illuminations…

…and was slightly surprised not to see more water running down the mighty Wauchope and under the Kirk Bridge.

The Esk was just low enough to allow the regular gull to stand in its favourite spot.

When I got to the meeting of the waters where the Esk and the Ewes join together, it would have been easy to forget the grey and gloomy morning in the pleasant afternoon sunshine if it wasn’t for the height of the rivers.

Ducks hung close to the bank in a calmer spot….

…while Mr Grumpy kept well away from the river bank, standing in the long grass on the Castleholm.

I didn’t have time to hang around as I was anxious to take part in our sibling Zoom (now only three times a week) so I only noted a tree trunk…

…and two of the many lovely roses in Mike and Alison Tinker’s garden as I passed. They were taking advantage of the better weather to have a look round.

When I got home, the garden in the afternoon could hardly have provided a bigger contrast to the morning…

…sad poppies had looked up…

…and there was plenty of colour to enjoy again.

After the family Zoom and our evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up the hill to the Langholm Moor in the hope of seeing some interesting bird life. Annoyingly, the skies had clouded over again and it was rather grey when we parked. Not a bird was to be seen so we drove down to the little car park on the banks of Tarras Water and I went for a very short walk while Mrs Tootlepdal scanned the skies.

Even on a grey evening, the Tarras valley is a tranquil spot…

…but the river was positively exciting.

Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t seen anything while I was out cascade hunting but as soon as I got back into the car, a harrier appeared on the skyline and we were able to watch a fine display of how to fly in a strong wind. The harrier was too far away for my camera so I was happy to be a proper bird watcher and use my binoculars. There is no doubt that you can see and enjoy a lot more when you are not fussing about trying to get a picture. There were several birds about so we thought that our trip had been worthwhile.

On our way home, we saw another raptor flying over the slopes beside the monument, once again too far away for a proper picture….

…and too far, even with the binoculars, for us to be certain whether it was a buzzard or a harrier.

It was only 10 degrees C as we drove home, still cool for the time of year and tomorrow is set to be another cool and decidedly windy day. It looks as though July is going to be a write off as far as summer weather is concerned, but to add insult to injury, the forecasters are predicting that July 31st is going to be really hot for a single day.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin trying to avoid the raindrops.

A touch of late colour

Today’s guest picture come from our sonTony in East Wemyss. Not only do they have apparently perpetual sunshine there, but they also have free apples for passers by. It is a demi-paradise.

We had another cool and cloudy morning here and, typically, we had just got settled down to coffee in the garden when the rain started up and we had to move on. The weather gods have got their eye on our socially distanced neighbours’ coffee mornings at the moment. They like nothing better for us to get sat down before they throw in some light rain which stops as soon as we have packed up.

Luckily we had an excellent Zoom meeting with our granddaughter Matilda and her parents to keep us entertained.

After zooming, I made some lentil soup and while it was cooking, I went out for a brief visit to the garden to find something cheerful to look at.

There is a bunch of poppies in the vegetable garden. They are finding it hard to keep their heads up under the frequent rain showers….

…but they are flowering very well all the same. You can see by the wheelbarrow in the background that Mrs Tootlepedal has been doing more tidying up of things that are past their best.

I looked around for more cheer…

…and took yet another picture of the developing dark dahlia…

…before going in to eat the lentil soup.

After lunch, I spent some time trying to improve my picture framing skills on Photoshop without much success. I have been forced by Adobe to move to a new version and on the way I lost the little macro which makes frames from my panels and I can’t remember what I did when I first created it. It is very frustrating.

Then it was time for our Carlisle Community Choir virtual choir practice. We are going to try to produce one of these composite choir performances made up of individuals singing at home, so our leader thought that we ought to devote some time to practising the song we are going to sing. With great technical skill, she divided the choir into two separate ‘rooms’ and she and the accompanist took two sections each. It was useful, but quite a lot of home practice will still be required.

When the choir practice had finished, there was time for a look at the birds. Goldfinches were playing ‘bookends’…

…and a redpoll took sole command of the feeder at one point.

The weather had brightened up a bit so I made another quick excursion to the garden where a zinnia putting up an ornamental fence round its internal garden caught my eye.

I was back inside, cooking some beetroot, when a bird smacked into the kitchen window and then tried a couple more times to get in. I went out to see how it was doing and found a young greenfinch standing stunned on the windowsill.

It wasn’t too badly hurt though, as it flew off under its own steam a minute or two later.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked some delicious minced beef for our tea, and we ate this with carrots, beetroot and potato from the garden. The broad beans are finished for this year so Mrs Tootlepedal has planted some more beetroot in the hope that we get sufficient good weather for it to grow quickly enough for us to be able to eat it. I hope so, as beetroot is my favourite.

After tea, I was considering a late pedal but the wind was strong and my will was weak and I went for a walk instead.

I walked through the park past the war memorial and down the Murtholm track to Skippers Bridge with a view to seeing whether the fallen trees had been cleared from the Tarras road. On my way I passed a pheasant hiding in the long grass…

…lots of vetch…

…and a good number of hazelnuts.

When I got to the Tarras road, the trees and rubble had been efficiently cleared away. The landslip had left a very visible scar.

If you look closely at the picture above, you can just see a fence on top of the rocky outcrop. This fence is there to help elderly walkers get up to the old railway track and it helped me today.

I did worry slightly about walking up beside a recent landslip but I felt that I was on solid rock rather than halfway down a muddy slope like the trees on my right.

The sun had come out as I was walking and it had turned into a pleasant day. I walked up through the oak and birch wood…

…to the Roundhouse, an old stone built gazebo now completely sealed in….

…and enjoyed the view over the town.

I took the path down from the Roundhouse…

…and made my way home, passing a sunlit foxglove….

…some lugubrious lichen on a wall…

…and a patch of invasive Himalayan Balsam…

I had to interrupt the preparation of this post at ten o’clock to go out with Mrs Tootlepedal to see a ‘son et lumiere’ project at the parish church organised by members of a local youth theatre group. They were lighting up the church to the accompaniment of recorded music. The performance was due to last for an hour and the church looked quite striking as various lights played on it.

…but the midges were so bad that Mrs Tootlepedal and I were driven off by the little biting blighters after about ten minutes. We left the church in all its glory…

…and got away as quickly as we could. If this post seems more disjointed than usual, it may be because I have been scratching my head literally as well as metaphorically as I wrote it.

The flying bird of the day is a serious sparrow.

A windmill on my mind

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin. He found the road along the river just past Skippers Bridge thoroughly blocked this morning.

We had had another inch of rain overnight so perhaps this collapse was not entirely unexpected. Fallen trees and landslips seem to have become quite common round here. Gavin says that the bank in the picture above looks pretty unstable so it may not be too easy to open the road quickly.

We had a quiet morning a home as we were both a bit tired and the weather was still very gloomy, but I did manage a trip to the corner shop (on my shopping bike) and a walk round the garden when things had dried up a bit.

Two zinnias are defying the rain and continuing to develop…

…and there were pale delights to be seen in the form of a poppy in a brief glint of sunshine…

….and an astrantia.

I was expecting to find things looking a little worse for wear after the overnight rain, but the dahlias and The Wren had held up well….

…while the begonias in the chimney pot looked amazing.

I checked on the red buddleia and was very happy to find that a butterfly had landed there. This red admiral looked rather battered though….

…and in the vegetable garden, the big clover was well past its best.

The morning had been so relaxed that when I finally made myself a cup of coffee, I found that it was lunchtime.

A glance at the forecast suggested that it might or might not be possible to avoid any showers, but my mouth wasn’t feeling too bad after yesterday’s visit to the dentist so I went out for a cycle ride, quite expecting to cut it short and scurry home when any rain came on.

Rain did come on when I was a few miles out of town but a look at the sky told me that it might be just be the very edge of a passing shower and that if I kept going, I should get through it quite quickly. I have made this sort of calculation before and got thoroughly soaked but on this occasion, I was lucky. The rain had stopped by the time that I got to the top of Callister.

I considered my options.

On our way back from the dentist yesterday, we had seen the first turbine tower of the new windfarm at Solwaybank, just over the hill from Callister. I decided to get a better look at it and headed on down the hill and then took the back roads that lead past the windfarm. I was a bit nervous as I have not cycled along them for a while and the surface has been terrible in places in the past.

I passed a very contented bull at the bottom of the hill…

…crossed the bridge at Linnbridgeford…

…and found that the backs roads had all been resurfaced and were in good condition.

I found an interesting sheep to look at when I got to the Solwaybank road….

…and soon found myself with an excellent view of the first turbine tower of the new windfarm, complete with very fancy crane.

The wires in the picture above, are the connections to the nearby windfarm at Ewe Hill…

…and it will be interesting to see if the new windfarm can connect to them too. I hope it can, because we already have quite enough wires spoiling views for photographers.

I cycled along the wooded section of road past Solwaybank House…

…and was very happy to find that it had been very smoothly resurfaced and was in perfect cycling condition.

At the entrance to the windfarm itself…

…I wondered if they had enough notices up. I felt that they had missed a chance as they could easily have had another notice up saying how important it was to read all the notices.

When I got out into open country again…

…the roads were still well surfaced and the whole ride was a great pleasure.

With five miles to go, I joined the familiar road which I use on my Canonbie circuit, and looking up at the Craig wind turbines, I wondered if I was going to get wet before I got home….

…but I was lucky, and I even had time to stop to look at some heather just coming into flower…

…and still get home dry after 20 very enjoyable miles.

Mrs Tootlepedal had not been idle while I was out and although she had been driven out of the garden by rain, she had had time to give her chickens a haircut.

When I got in, I had time to look at the birds for a while.

There were a lot of greenfinches about today, on occasions sharing with chaffinches….

…and sometimes arguing with a redpoll….

…who was quite capable of standing up for himself.

After I had had a shower, we went out into the garden to dig up a main crop potato. Mrs Tootlepedal was quite satisfied with four and a half pounds of good clean potatoes from one plant.

We had a video call with our granddaughter Evie and her mother Annie, and then a second helping of the butcher’s steak pie with vegetables from the garden finished off a quietly enjoyable day. It helped that it was reasonably warm, even if the sun didn’t shine.

The flying bird of the day is a slightly out of focus greenfinch.

A useful outing

Today’s guest picture comes from a visit my Somerset correspondent, Venetia, made to Benter Village. She met with some fowl play while she was there.

In the way that these things often happen, we got a day of pretty good weather just when I couldn’t make good use of it. My toothache was still bad when I woke up, but I found that if I did nothing active, it stayed tolerable so I had a very quiet morning.

We had a sunny coffee meeting with Margaret and while Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret chatted, I kept an eye out for passing butterflies. Although a few fluttered by, only one stayed long enough for a photograph.

Our friendly blackbird dropped in to listen to the conversation as it often does.

In the absence of butterflies, I took pictures of flowers. Zinnias don’t like rain and although some of Mrs Tootlepedal’s zinnias have given up, this one is doing its best to come out.

And new dahlias are adding to the garden colour every day.

Old friends are thriving.

My appointment with the dentist was at 1.20 in Annan, which is a 20 mile drive from Langholm, so we had a light lunch and set off, hoping that the repaired tyre on the Zoe would stay repaired. It did and we arrived safely in Annan in plenty of time. I had been instructed to knock on the window when I arrived as the door would be locked. I duly knocked, the door was unlocked and I entered in, sanitising my hands as I went. It felt well organised and safe.

Technology is so smart these days that the dentist was able to x-ray my troublesome teeth and show me the results on a screen only moments later. Dentists are not allowed to do any treatment that involves spray but they can do extractions, and it wasn’t long after seeing the x-ray pictures that I found myself two teeth lighter. The process was remarkably painless.

We drove home by quiet back roads at a modest speed.

Naturally, I was a bit down in the mouth when we got home, but I cheered myself up with a couple more emerging dahlia shots…

I like the variety of dahlias that Mrs Tootlepedal has sown.

Then, although I had been given a post extraction instruction sheet that told me to avoid strenuous exercise, I did go so far as to the mow the middle lawn, but I mowed it very gently and took no hurt.

I checked on the vegetables garden and found large peas…

…and very small but potential runner beans.

I picked some more beetroot and put them on to cook, and then noticed the first crocosmia in the garden…

…and a large number of bees visiting the ligularia.

While I sat inside for a rest, Mrs Tootlepedal sat on the new bench under the privet. If the ligularia was busy with bees, the privet was super busy and Mrs Tootlepedal could hardly hear herself think for the sound of the buzzing. The privet ‘snow’ can be seen in today’s header picture.

After a cup of tea, we went back out into the garden to pick peas and beans for our evening meal and I ended my floral photography with a picture of a very late flower on the rosa complicata.

I had a moment to watch the birds for a while and found the feeder very busy.

One bird was bemused by the sight of another eating seed on the feeder without using one of the handy perches.

And smaller birds had several unsuccessful goes at kicking greenfinches off the feeder.

After a sibling Zoom (with interesting pictures again), my mouth was recovered enough for me to enjoy the peas and beans from the garden with an excellent steak pie from our local butcher for our evening meal.

What makes the loss of a good cycling day to dentistry all the more annoying is the forecast of rain and wind returning for the next two days. Still, at least I haven’t got toothache which is a blessing.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Getting things fixed

Today’s guest picture is another from Paul. He was happy to see that cricket had started again after the lockdown.

As a day, this was one that did not get entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life, although it did have some redeeming features.

First, the less attractive part: after breakfast, I had to take the car down to the garage in Carlisle to get a slow puncture fixed. As it was pouring with rain, the drive down wasn’t much fun and walking round a village on the outskirts of Carlisle while I was waiting for the work to be done was rather gloomy too. This picture sums up the weather quite well.

I found this promising bridle path to explore but it gradually got more and more wet as I went along, and in the end I would have need my dookies, flippers and a snorkel to make progress. As I had none of these, I turned round and went back the way that I had come. A call from the garage to say that the car was ready rescued me from the rain and I was home by lunchtime.

The redeeming feature of the morning was that the garage didn’t charge me for the repair.

The weather improved during the afternoon but the day didn’t as I was suffering from toothache and it got steadily worse as time went by. In the end, it got so bad that I rang up the dentists and to my surprise the day produced its next redeeming feature. I got an appointment to see a dentist tomorrow in Annan. I don’t think that they are doing any treatment but at least they should be able to find out what is causing the problem and give me advice on what should be done.

I did think about going for a cycle ride as it was quite calm when the ran stopped, but the toothache sapped my will and the furthest that I got was out into the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal checked on her carrots…

…and was surprised that her purple sprouting broccoli was sprouting…

…as it was not due to sprout until next year.

Both carrots and broccoli made a welcome appearance at our evening meal.

While I was out in the garden, I had a look around.

In the veg garden, Mrs Tootlepedal has some very healthy mustard growing. She is very keen on mustard.

Runner beans are looking promising with some beans forming and plenty of flowers.

And looking at the fence along the side of the veg garden, I could see contrasting clematis. One high…

…and one low.

In the flower gardens, the Indian Prince looks good from every angle.

…and the lupins have produced some good secondary shoots.

There are a lot of blackbirds about, both young…

…and old.

Then I went back in and felt sorry for myself (so that nobody else needs to) until I was cheered up by an evening meal of cauliflower cheese with potatoes, carrots and broccoli from the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal is thinking of giving up growing peas next year and perhaps trying cauliflowers instead.

The weather kept on improving as the day went on and after our meal, I went back out into the garden for an ‘evening light’ shot…

…or two….

…or three.

I thought that that would be all my photographic activity for the day, but while I was taking a break from writing this post to go and have a moan about my toothache to the long suffering Mrs Tootlepedal, she pointed out that there was a new moon in the sky. I went out to have a look…

…and was impressed by a vapour trail getting a tweak from some lofty breeze and catching the very last of the sun.

At this point, the day’s last remaining redeeming feature appeared in the form of a curled up hedgehog on the drive. I didn’t like to disturb it with the flash so this was the best that I could do.

Mrs Tootlepedal came out and while she wondering if she should move it to somewhere more hospitable, the hedgehog woke up and scuttled under a hedge.

As something has been eating the hedgehog food that she has been putting out, Mrs Tootlepedal is delighted to find that it is probably a hedgehog that has been doing it.

I watched birds during the afternoon. I was pleased to see a goldfinch and a redpoll…

…among a host of sparrows…

…one of which is the flying bird of the day.

Dripping wet

Today’s guest picture, an antidote to our miserable day here, is a view towards Keswick from Manesty taken by Lake District enthusiast Paul, a couple of years ago. It was a welcome sight on a grey day. The number of aeroplane trails in the sky is a marked contrast to present circumstances.

We had a day with few if any redeeming features here, as it rained nearly all day, and even when it wasn’t raining, the clouds were so low that it felt as if it was. As a result, it seemed like a very good day for Mrs Tootlepedal to cut my hair, so she did this after breakfast.

I then, seized on a rainless moment to cycle off to the shop and got thoroughly wet on my way back a few minutes later.

The newspapers, coffee and a crossword were followed by some flute practice and lunch.

I had a look at the birds after lunch and saw a blue tit visiting in the rain.

A green finch looked disgusted to find that it had come all this way in the wet only to find the feeder fully occupied.

I finally got fed up with skulking about indoors and went for a walk, hoping that a forecast which said it might stop raining for a while was correct.

Before I left, I took a picture of two dahlias in the garden, one newly starting out today, just to have a least one garden picture in the post.

The start of my walk was not very promising as the rain persisted. Even when I got under trees, the slightest breeze made them drop more water on me from their sodden leaves than the rain was doing.

However, optimism was rewarded and the rain eased off. Although things were definitely still very damp, a lot of the walk was quite enjoyable.

The frost damage to the beeches is still very visible, but they have been putting out new leaves and the result is an interesting patchwork of colour.

I walked along the track to the bridge over the Becks burn and saw a grazing horse…

…another chicory flower, the second in recent walks having never noticed one before….

…and a bank of rosebay willowherb looking quite cheerful in all the gloom.

I crossed the bridge (which appears in today’s header picture) over the Becks Burn and climbed up the hill to the road on the other side. There was no view to speak off when I looked back down the valley…

…so I looked down at a sea of soggy grass instead…

…which, as is so often the case, looked better when I looked at it more closely.

I walked down to the Auld Stane Brig, passing vetch….


…lady’s bedstraw….

…and about a million droplets.

I crossed the bridge and strolled back towards the town along Gaskell’s Walk. Things are very green at the moment, even on a grey day.

But once again, rosebay willowherb added a colorful note in many places. It may be a plague in the garden, but it is a grand sight in the wild.

I passed through the tunnel to Stubholm…

…and stopped to contemplate life in the company of some sheep in a field.

As it hadn’t started raining again, I lengthened my walk a little by going along the track on the top of the banking and coming back through the woods beside the river to the park. It had got very gloomy and I only took one more picture, a bramble flower…

…before scurrying back home as the rain started again.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing preparatory work for painting the second half of the sitting room ceiling during the day and she was quite ready for a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit or two when I got in.

The sibling Zoom meeting produced an interesting collection of photographs and it was judged so successful that we are going to have another photo display at our next meeting.

I made corn beef hash for tea and that rounded off a fairly dull day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, looking suitably depressed in the rain.

A non standard day

Today’s guest picture comes from Natasha, the daughter of our son Tony’s partner Marianne. Natasha was looking across the Forth at Newhaven Harbour on the Edinburgh shore. It was just as sunny today on her side as it always seems to be on Tony’s side.

We had a better day today than our recent cool and rainy spell. It was still cool but not rainy which was a definite improvement. It was a day of sunny intervals and when the sun was out, it was positively warm but when I set out for an unusually early cycle ride, the temperature was a measly 50°F/10°C, and I had to wear a warm jacket.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on a Zoom meeting with the moorland buy out group when I went and she was busy having coffee with Margaret and Liz when I got back from a relatively quick nip round my usual Canonbie 20 mile circuit.

It was unusually quick because I only stopped for two photos on my way. The first was at Canonbie Sawmill where an interesting river of daisies flowed into a field…

…and the second was to note that lady’s bedstraw has taken up the running from meadowsweet and knapweed on the old A7.

I am grateful to my camera club friend Simon who alerted me to the daisies.

I got myself a cup of coffee and joined the socially distanced coffee morning on the lawn. When it was over, Mrs Tootlepedal went in to write up the minutes of her meeting and I mowed the drying green and the vegetable garden grass.

I took a break to look at flowers and enjoyed this poppy a lot.

I had gone out cycling in the morning because the wind was due to get stronger later in the day but it was still calm enough at this time to make taking a poppy picture easier than it has been lately in the stiff breezes.

I looked up when I heard a loud noise, and saw a navy helicopter flying low over the town…

…presumably on its way to the sea side.

Looking down again, I enjoyed this spot in the vegetable garden where the calendulas seem to be floating in mid air.

…and the Wren rose had a bee on it today as a bonus for the photographer.

I passed a pretty hosta flower…

…on my way to get out the push mower to mow the middle lawn.

Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, feeling a call to be useful for once, I finished pruning two of the espalier apples and trimmed two of the box hedges.

I did find time to look at the birds too though. There was a starling on the feeder…

…as well as the usual suspects.

I spent quite a bit of time during the day prowling round the garden trying to catch a butterfly at rest. I saw a few flitting about but they weren’t in a co-operative mood at all. I put the shopping bike to good use by doing some shopping and then as a variation on having morning coffee on the lawn, we had afternoon tea on the lawn with our friends Mike and Alison.

Our pleasure in their company was enhanced by the fine packet of ginger biscuits which Alison brought with her and kindly gave to us a gift. She also gave us some sage advice about storage to keep them from going stale. This just goes to show how little she knows about the shelf life of a ginger biscuit in the Tootlepedal household.

When they left, Mrs Tootlepedal started cooking an elaborate Spanish omelette for our evening meal, and this gave me enough time to go for a short three bridges walk.

On my way out of the garden, I took a picture of the tropaeolum on the yew.

I walked along the river bank where the sun picked out a dock among the tall grasses .

There weren’t many birds about but I did see one odd looking character beside the river along with a familiar black headed gull resting at its post.

I have no idea what the bird in the right hand frame is and would welcome suggestions from those who know.

It was a beautiful evening for a walk…

….though it was still far from being hot even after a mostly sunny day.

As I walked along the racecourse on the Castleholm, I could hear buzzards making a great racket. I looked around and two of the birds appeared fairly low above my head, giving me a rare photo opportunity.

They were just above the trees and I was able to stand and watch as they effortlessly circled round, using thermals to glide higher and higher, until they disappeared from view.

I went back to the Lodge Walks to walk round the Lodge, and this gave me a nicely framed view across the racecourse and playing field.

Coming down the other side of the field on my way back to the Jubilee Bridge, I passed two striking pine trees….

…both catching the sun in an attractive way.

I was distracted from my tree watching activity by more raucous buzzard cries and I was very surprised to find myself watching two buzzards in what looked like a fight as they darted in and out of trees….

…at speed.

Unfortunately, buzzards at speed against a background of leaves, don’t make for easy camera shots so although they kept up the pursuit for a while, the shot above was the best that I could do. Meanwhile two other buzzards circled above the trees before sloping off with an air of “Nothing to do with me, guv,” about them.

I got back in good time from Mrs Tootlepedal’s Spanish omelette which was very good, but which she thought probably took more time and effort to cook than was totally worthwhile.

In spite of the temptations of the buzzards, the flying bird of the day is a domestic sparrow as a tribute to the vast number of sparrows in the garden at the moment.

A new walk

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. He asks whether we think the picture was taken in sunny East Wemyss or on a Greek Island. We know the answer.

Our run of cool weather continued here today, and once again infrequent and short rain showers made it hard to plan when to hang the washing out.

And once again, our garden coffee morning was ended by a little shower. Fortunately it stopped almost as soon as our neighbours had left the garden so we were able to continue with gardening (and hang more washing out).

I looked at a couple of handsome flowers before coffee, a day lily…

…and just one of the many blooms on the Bobbie James rose.

I also used my shopping bike for its proper purpose and went shopping on it.

The main business of the morning for Mrs Tootlepedal, before and after coffee, was removing half of a Virginia Creeper, badly affected by frost, from the fence and making a space for the Golden Syllabub rose to take its place. My contribution was a great deal of moral support and taking away stuff for shredding. The rose was finally moved to its new home and its sole flower was snipped off and taken indoors.

We hope for many more of these lovely flowers next year.

While I was taking shreddings to the compost bin, I noticed a jackdaw in the garden. It was taking an interest in the goings on.

I was very pleased to see that a small tortoiseshell butterfly had discovered that the buddleia is out.

I hope that many more will follow its lead.

The clematis that lives in the Philadelphus beside the plum tree is doing its best to climb up into some free air.

It is quite tricky to get a picture that does justice to the white phlox as it is so white that it tends to upset the camera. However, I think that this effort, with the purple phlox as a contrast does go some way to showing how rich the white phlox is.

I had filled the feeder in the morning and I had a look at the birds after lunch. The feeder was doing brisk business….

…and a dunnock foraged below.

I had intended to go cycling in the afternoon but the changeable weather and a gusty wind made a walk more attractive, especially as Mrs Tootlepedal was keen for a stroll too. She likes pedestrian novelty so we took the car five miles up the road to the little village of Bentpath and walked up one side of the Esk to Enzieholm Bridge and then back down the other side. We have cycled this route before as part of longer rides, but we have never walked it.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting a four and a half mile walk on familiar roads to be very interesting but I was wrong. Walking is not the same as cycling and there was hardly a minute on the walk when there wasn’t a fine view to appreciate or something interesting closer to hand to enjoy.

Here is a selection of both.

Our starting point:

A selection of roadside interest as we walked up to Enzieholm.

Two outstanding plants, a scabious…

…and a deep red rose from a hedge.

The traffic on the road tended to come at quite a speed but luckily, there were not too many vehicles about and Mrs Tootlepedal was able to tear along the dotted line with impunity.

We crossed the Esk by the handsome Enzieholm Bridge…

…and walked back to Bentpath on the very quiet minor road on the other side of the river.

Here was saw what we think is a fine chicory plant…

…and passed verges full of great burnet, thistles both melancholy and cheerful, and all sorts of interesting grasses.

And these were only a fraction of the wild flowers that we saw.

My final picture was taken from the Bentpath Bridge looking back up the Esk.

The car thermometer said the temperature was 14°C as we drove up to Bentpath, it was cloudy as we set off and we had had to shelter under trees at Enzieholm bridge while a sharp shower threatened to soak us.

But once again, the rain only lasted for a few minutes, and as you can see, our walk ended in warm sunshine. The thermometer claimed it was 18° as we drove home but the car had been standing in the sun for a bit.

We got back in plenty of time for a cup of tea before the customary sibling Zoom. An evening meal of fishcakes followed by a dish of the last raspberries from the garden (with whipped cream) rounded off a day that had turned out very well. I hadn’t slept well and was a bit grumpy in the morning but the walk with Mrs Tootlepedal at my side thoroughly perked me up and left me feeling much more cheerful.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow with full landing gear down.

Footnote: The challenge of the day at the sibling zoom meeting was a sonnet. My sister Susan and I were the only takers. She wrote an entertaining number on the stress of the current situation and I reflected on a recent cycle ride to the Solway coast. Here is my effort (with apologies as it is the first sonnet I have ever written.)

When once I cycled on the Solway plain
And watched quiet cattle grazing on the shore.
The peaceful scene filled me with joy, before
I looked on high to check the threat of rain.

For weather prospects fill a cyclist’s mind,
Wind, sunshine, rain alike can all do harm.
It’s always far too cold or far too warm
And rare the day when wind is not unkind.

But I was pedalling at my chosen speed
Quite free, with no black care pursuing me
And so I put these gloomy thoughts aside

And vowed to pay potential rain no heed
To love the scenes of meadows, hills and sea
Those restful cattle taught me how to ride.

An unexpected encounter

The guest picture of the day comes from our daughter Annie. It shows my stepmother Patricia and my eldest sister Susan, socially distanced on a park bench in Camden, on the occasion of their recent meeting with Annie’s daughter Evie as she approached her first birthday.

We had another mainly sunny day here, though once again when the sun went in, it was far from warm, especially as there was a brisk wind blowing. All the same, it was a good day for a garden coffee morning with Liz and Margaret, and for quite a lot of gardening before and after.

Mrs Tootlepedal had an interesting early morning. She saw a woodpecker in our plum tree, a very infrequent visitor to our garden. This was a plus. She also saw about twenty four sparrows on the lawn getting ready to attack her vegetable garden. This was a minus. The sparrows don’t seem to have stopped bringing up new families at all this year.

I was quite active as a garden helper today, taking material to the shredder and compost bins as Mrs Tootlepedal cleared things up. I also started on pruning the espalier apples and did some dead heading too.

Naturally I found time to look at flowers as well. I started before coffee.

The first thing that caught my eye was not just one…

…but two new dahlias.

Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased with these as they have come from seed this year.

There were plenty of bright colours to admire elsewhere…

The clematis in the bottom right of the panel above has just come out in a sheltered spot on the back fence, but the clematis on the vegetable garden fence is running riot now that the Goldfinch rose has stopped flowering and given it a bit of space,.

On the other side of the fence, the Golden Syllabub rose is doing its best to find room to bloom in a dark corner.

We had a really good coffee morning with interesting subjects raised and discussed, and it only stopped when a raindrop or two reminded Margaret that she had her washing hanging out to dry. We were perfectly certain that the rain wouldn’t come to anything but it wasn’t our washing and Margaret went to rescue it.

We went back to gardening as the rain stopped a few seconds after Margaret left.

There are some colourful corners around at the moment.

And individual items that merit a glance as well. The verbascum is my current favourite for curiosity…

…whereas Mrs Tootlepedal is excited by this new dark poppy which is looking promising…

…and we are both bowled over by how well the Wren rose is doing this year. It has never been better. (Mrs Tootlepedal puts it down to the use of good quantities of muck.)

I had time to admire a dunnock on hedge…

…before going in for lunch.

After lunch, I spent some time learning the rules for writing sonnets and then attempting to write one. It appears that it is not too hard to write a bad sonnet but writing a good one may be a trickier proposition.

Then it was time for the weekly virtual choir meeting for our Carlisle Choir. We are going to try to actually practice repertoire next week. That will be an interesting experiment.

While it was raining a day or two ago, I made a couple of pots of blackcurrant jelly, using currants from our sole blackcurrant bush which is very new. The results were good so after a cup of tea and a slice of newly made bread and butter with the blackcurrant jelly, we were perked up enough to drive up to the Langholm Moor to see if we could see any hen harriers.

The moor was looking lovely….

…when we parked at the top of the hill and looked over the Tarras Valley, but there were no birds to be seen.

We decided to drive across the valley and up to the county boundary on the other side in the hope of seeing some of the wild goats. As we climbed up the hill, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a harrier hovering to our left. I parked the car and as I got out with my camera in hand, the harrier stopped hovering and headed straight for us at speed. It was quite alarming as it swooped low over our heads and I had no chance to lift my camera up. I think that we must have stopped quite close to a nesting site because the harrier zoomed up over our heads and hovered there complaining loudly.

She stopped for long enough for me to get the camera into action….

…before flying off, still complaining.

We continued on to the county boundary without seeing any goats but on our way back, we saw a male harrier quartering the moor. It was too far away to get a picture but it was good to have seen both a male and female harrier on our short trip.

I can’t pass the Ewes Valley on a sunny day without taking a look…

…and I thought that it was well worth stopping on our way back for yet another picture.

The garden had been full of sparrows all day with queues waiting on the feeder…

…as lucky ones flew in for a feed…

…but there is no doubt at all that another shot of the female hen harrier should take pride of place as flying bird of the day.

Kilo ton

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba. She is worried that her squash is going to take over the whole garden.

It was a relief to find that the day was fine and dry when we got up. This meant that I would have a chance to test out the repair on my road bike, and hopefully consign the shopping bike to shopping for the foreseeable future.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast to see how things had got on after the rain yesterday.

Things were in the purple.

I didn’t have to look hard to see evidence of the rain though.

The privet is well out now and there was plenty of buzzing as I walked past. I caught this already heavily loaded bee flying in for more.

A smaller insect could found on the verbascum.

I didn’t rush to get out on my bike and the ladies were assembling for coffee in the garden as I set off. Margaret put the wind up me by coming in her coat and claiming that the forecast was for showers.

When I had cycled five miles, I stopped for a look around and felt cheered by the fact the sky in the direction that I would be heading looked quite friendly.

Luckily I wasn’t heading down that particular badly maintained road, but turned south west a few miles further on.

It might have been fine and occasionally sunny, but there was still a bit of wind about and I was cycling into it so I was happy to stop every now and again on my way to the Carlisle bypass to look at wild flowers and get a breather.

The little meadow in the bottom left of the panel is at the roundabout where I joined the cycle path that runs alongside the bypass.

On my way to the bypass, I had passed a house which always raises its eyebrows at me…

…and once I had left the bypass for the road along the Solway coast, I found that the gate into the churchyard at Burgh by Sands was open so I could walk in and admire St Michaels Church .

The Explore Churches website tells me that Burgh by Sands is a very interesting church with layers of history. From the 12th century and on the site of an earlier church, it is built with stones from Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman fort of Aballava, on the site of which it stands.

I cycled on through the village and down onto the road across the salt marsh beside the Solway. A little rise at Boustead Hill on the otherwise flat road gave me a chance to look around. The view is extensive. Those are Scotland’s hills in the background.

Having had enough of cycling into the wind by this time, I crossed the bed of the old canal that once linked Carlisle to the sea…

…and turned for home by way of this fine old house in a village before I got back to the bypass.

In order to take a different route home than the one that I followed on my way out, I went right round the bypass bike track this time, stopping for a banana beside this newly made pond near ASDA.

Between the supermarket and an industrial estate, a little wildlife area with footpaths has been created but I have never explored it and it is likely that I never will.

I made my way across country towards Longtown, with a helpful tree pointing out the direction to follow…

…and stopped to eat a final honey sandwich beside the river Esk….

…just below the handsome five arch bridge which crosses the river there.

It was a day for bypasses because as well as travelling in two directions along the Carlisle bypass, I got back home by way of the Canonbie bypass, which is lined with daisies at its north end.

At the beginning of this month, I had taken on a (not very demanding) challenge to have at least one ride of 100 kilometres. This had been beyond me while I was on the shopping bike, but the 64 miles that I did today more than met the target so I was very happy with my repaired bicycle.

As it was a lovely afternoon by the time that I got home, I had a walk round the garden when I got back. Everything was smiling.

…and I noted that the climbing hydrangea is doing its best to recover from the frost damage and it is steadily producing new flowers, a great attraction to bees.

Mrs Tootlepedal made me a refreshing cup of tea and fortified by this, I mowed the lawns as they were getting a bit out of hand after the rainy days had prevented mowing.

I also filled the bird feeder, which I had forgotten about in the morning. However, the birds must have taken the huff because none appeared so the non flying bird of the day is a wren but not the feathered kind.

The Tiny Potager

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